Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 943–954 | Cite as

Divide and conquer: when and how should competitors share?

  • Mike Mesterton-GibbonsEmail author
  • Tom N. Sherratt
Original Paper


When two individuals are unwilling to fight over a valuable resource, then they may obtain it with equal probability, or they may choose to divide the resource in some way. Although both strategies have been observed in nature, modelers have so far implicitly assumed that their long-term payoffs are the same. First we show that increasing returns to size in the value of a resource favor random allocation over sharing, whereas diminishing returns favor the reverse. Next we extend our approach to understand the conditions under which sharing will evolve when contestants vary in their resource-holding potential. We show that although closely matched individuals are more likely to share, it is by no means a prerequisite when contestants have limited information about one another’s abilities. Collectively, our models support recent observations of physical sharing as a solution to conflict resolution, and elucidate the conditions under which sharing will arise.


Hawk-Dove game Resource-holding potential Animal conflict Food sharing Roller beetles 



We thank the Editors and two anonymous referees for comments that have improved the manuscript considerably.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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