Everybody loses: Intraspecific competition induces tragedy of the commons in Allenby's gerbils

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16 Scopus citations


Interference competition may lead to a tragedy of the commons in which individuals driven by self-interest reduce the fitness of the entire group. We investigated this hypothesis in Allenby's gerbils, Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi, by comparing foraging behaviors of single vs. pairs of gerbils. We recorded strong interference competition within the foraging pairs. Competition reduced the amount of time the gerbils spent foraging, as well as foraging efficiency since part of the foragers' attention was directed toward detecting competitors (apparent predation risk). Single gerbils harvested significantly more food than the combined efforts of two gerbils foraging together. Competition reduced the success of both individuals within a pair by more than 50%, making this a case of the tragedy of the commons where each individual's investment in competition reduces the success of all individuals within the group, including its own. Despite their great costs, competitive behaviors will be selected for as long as one individual achieves higher fitness than the other. In nature, interspecific interactions, such as predation risk, may act to reduce and regulate the deleterious effects of intraspecific competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-61
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Allenby's gerbils, Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi
  • Apprehension
  • Giving-up density (GUD)
  • Harvest rate curves
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Optimal foraging
  • Tragedy of the commons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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