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Monday, April 16, 2007

Game Theory In Animal Kingdom!!


Game theory refers to “a strategy that considers competitors’ behaviors”
(Maier 1998, 501). Game theory was originally viewed as a mathematical theory or method that may be used to analyze how an actor- player- should behave when he cannot have complete information about what another actor- “opponent”- is going to do” in certain situations . Based on the Prison's Deilemma, the game theory resolves many "counteractions" in the animal world, aslo called as the "Hawk-Dove Strategy". Animals, like humans, will hesitate and wait to see what others do before making a decision but still it forms the basis of ethiology and human psychology.



John Maynard Smith has observed that it is rare for rivals to kill one another in nature. Rivals use threats to symbolize power but have no intention of engaging in conflict. An example of game theory can be applied to two male animals, competing amongst themselves and trying hard for the attention of a female with which they wish to mate. Both males entering the battle do not know what the final outcome will bring. the consequence can be injurious or even fatal, but that is the price that they pay in order to pass on their genes.



The decision must be made by both animals as to whether it is worth such a great risk just to be able to copulate with the female. It is a common issue in the animal world, but the idea of competing and not knowing the outcome is an example of game theory. It is uncommon for members of the same species to kill one another in battle because animals cannot grasp a complete understanding of their opponents’ information or capabilities in combat, so it is difficult and pointless to fight one another. It does not accomplish anything and can only lead to problems in nature. Maynard Smith has applied graded signals, which are communication signals that vary in intensity and duration in terms of the sender’s motivation level, to game theory (Maier, 1998).


An example of graded signals in nature is the intensity of a deer roar in battle. Two male deer may be competing for a female. Instead of attacking one another, they compete to see who can roar the loudest and longest, based on who wants to mate more. This idea is an elaboration of the idea of game theory in nature. Game theory and fighting strategies among animals can be related to the evolutionarily stable strategy theory (Maier 1998). Its also seen in case of birds predominantly where the males compete with each other with their weapons like dancing, showing of feathers, simnging, helping the females in foraging etc. One such commonest example is the building of nests by the male tailor birds. The better the nest is built, the chances for getting a patner incresaes. The game theory apart from animal world (ethiology), is being applied in the field of sports(chess), economics and even politics these days.

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