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Monday, March 24, 2014

Game-Theoretical Models in Biology

"A stag might fight to death over a territory or concede it uncontested to another. Neighboring trees invest varying amounts of energy into growth, with the tallest blocking sunlight to others. Viruses infecting a common cell can either make all proteins required for their reproduction or free ride on those made by others. How does evolution shape the strategic phenotype of organisms in life-and-death contests?"  (Allen)

For all of you mathematics and biology laymen out there (and I most certainly include myself in this category), evolutionary game theory applies the mathematical framework of games to the evolutionary processes of biological lifeforms.  The concept, as it relates to it's original purpose, was introduced to a wide audience in 1973 by John Maynard Smith and George R. Price, but it has since captured the interest of academics from varying disciplines, including economists, anthropologists, sociologists, and philosophers.

Jan Rychtář , Professor in UNCG's Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Mark Broom's new book, Game-Theoretical Models in Biology, "covers the major topics of evolutionary game theory [and] presents both abstract and practical mathematical models of real biological situations. It discusses the static aspects of game theory in a mathematically rigorous way that is appealing to mathematicians. In addition, the authors explore many applications of game theory to biology, making the text useful to biologists as well" (CRC Press).

"Broom and Rychtár lead their readers all the way from the rudiments of evolutionary game theory to the research frontier...  Their coverage is remarkably wide-ranging, from old standards like the Hawk-Dove game to newer applications such as epidemiology. The authors strike an excellent compromise between breadth and depth by limiting the generality of some theoretical treatments, choosing good examples, and using up-to-date references to round out their coverage" (Mike Mesterton-Gibbons, Florida State University).

As Wilfrid Laurier University's Ross Cressman notes, "the book will serve both as an important resource for researchers in the field and as a valuable text for students at a graduate or senior undergraduate level."

"This engaging primer demonstrates that there is no tension between mathematical elegance and biological fidelity: both are needed to further our understanding of evolution" (Allen).

Allen, B. A. (2013). 0 Brave New World with Such Games. Science, 341(6148), 844. doi:10.1126/science.1241750

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