Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 9, pp 1321–1327 | Cite as

The roles of sensory traps in the origin, maintenance, and breakdown of mutualism

  • David P. Edwards
  • Douglas W. Yu


Sensory traps are signal mimics that elicit out-of-context behaviors by exploiting the adaptive, neural responses of signal receivers. Sensory traps have long been invoked in studies of mate and prey attraction, but the possible roles of sensory traps in mutualisms (cooperation between species) have yet to be thoroughly examined. Our review identifies four candidate roles for sensory traps in the evolution of mutualistic interactions: reassembly, error reduction, enforcement, and cost reduction. A key consequence of sensory traps is that they limit the applicability of partner choice and biological market models of mutualism. We conclude by suggesting that an important research topic in the evolution of cooperation should be to identify any mechanisms that increase the truthfulness of communication between cooperating species.


Cooperation Cheating Parasitism Sexual selection Aggressive mimicry 



We thank Doyle McKey, Mark Hassall, and William Sutherland for the comments, and the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) for a studentship awarded to D.E.


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© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation and School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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