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At play, Chanthaburi River, Thailand

My colleague Ken Angielczyk and I have a new paper out in the Royal Society‘s Biology Letters, entitled “The evolutionary palaeoecology of species and the tragedy of the commons“. If you have never read Garrett Hardin’s original paper on the tragedy of the commons, I strongly suggest that you do. It is a principle that I believe has broad application, and would well be worth a re-visit (first visit?!) by today’s leaders and economists. Our paper can be found here or here (first page only). And here is the abstract, as a little teaser!


The fossil record presents palaeoecological pat-
terns of rise and fall on multiple scales of time
and biological organization. Here, we argue that
the rise and fall of species can result from a tragedy
of the commons, wherein the pursuit of self-inter-
ests by individual agents in a larger interactive
system is detrimental to the overall performance
or condition of the system. Species evolving
within particular communities may conform to
this situation, affecting the ecological robustness
of their communities. Results from a trophic
network model of Permian–Triassic terrestrial
communities suggest that community perform-
ance on geological timescales may in turn
constrain the evolutionary opportunities and
histories of the species within them.

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