1. Ecology
Download icon

Acknowledging selection at sub-organismal levels resolves controversy on pro-cooperation mechanisms

  1. Wenying Shou  Is a corresponding author
  1. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States
Research Advance
  • Cited 2
  • Views 989
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e10106 doi: 10.7554/eLife.10106


Cooperators who pay a cost to produce publically-available benefits can be exploited by cheaters who do not contribute fairly. How might cooperation persist against cheaters? Two classes of mechanisms are known to promote cooperation: 'partner choice', where a cooperator preferentially interacts with cooperative over cheating partners; and 'partner fidelity feedback' (PFF), where repeated interactions between individuals ensure that cheaters suffer as their cooperative partners languish (see, for example, Momeni et al., 2013). However when both mechanisms can act, differentiating them has generated controversy. Here, I resolve this controversy by noting that selection can operate on organismal and sub-organismal 'entities' such that partner fidelity feedback at sub-organismal level can appear as partner choice at organismal level. I also show that cooperation between multicellular eukaryotes and mitochondria is promoted by partner fidelity feedback and partner choice between sub-organismal entities, in addition to being promoted by partner fidelity feedback between hosts and symbionts, as was previously known.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Wenying Shou

    Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    Wenying Shou, Reviewing editor, eLife.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Diethard Tautz, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: July 15, 2015
  2. Accepted: December 21, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 29, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: March 11, 2016 (version 2)


© 2015, Shou

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


  • 989
    Page views
  • 246
  • 2

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: PubMed Central, Scopus, Crossref.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Further reading

    1. Ecology
    Nico Eisenhauer et al.
    Research Article
    1. Ecology
    2. Evolutionary Biology
    Adrian G Glover et al.
    Feature Article