Conflicts of interest in mutualistic interactions

13-14 September 2006


Cooperation between species (mutualism) poses a challenge to evolutionary theory because it involves altruistic behaviours between unrelated individuals. A wide range of recent empirical evidence suggests that mutualism is best seen as mutual exploitation with a resulting net benefit for both sides. A major question is therefore what factors may prevent the eventual erosion of mutualism into parasitism.

The goal of this workshop is to explore:
1) the conditions under which partner exploitation is possible, at least in theory,
2) what control mechanisms keep exploitation by a partner in check under natural conditions, and
3) which conditions favour the use of one specific control mechanism over other ones.

By inviting both eminent empiricists and theoreticians in the field, we can confront the students with the amazing diversity of mutualistic examples and potential theoretical explanations. Students will therefore be able to assess a variety of angles to the study of mutualism. Students will also be offered an opportunity to present their own work if it is somewhat related to mutualism and will have ample of opportunity to discuss it with the experts.

 It is highly recommended that participants also attend the course "EVOLUTIONARY MECHANISMS UNDERLYING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS", which will take place in Bern earlier during the same week (10-11 September 2006).  The courses are jointly coordinated and they are perfectly complementary to each other.


  • Maurice Sabelis, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Mutualistic Interactions between Plants and Mites
  • Rufus Johnstone, University of Cambridge, U.K.: A Game Theoretic Approach to Mutualism
  • Ronald Noë, University Louis-Pasteur, Strasbourg, France: Biological Markets in Mutualism

Participants are encouraged to also present their own work in a short oral presentation.


Programme (pdf file 59 Ko).
Abstract (pdf file 57 Ko).

general information

Dates: 13-14 September 2006
Schedule: 13 September 9.00 - 17:30 (participants dinner at 18.30) and 14 September 9.00 - 13.30
Location: University of Neuchâtel, Uni Mail, Aula Louis-Guillaume

Credit points: for Graduate school "Plants and their Environment" participants: 0.5 credit point, 1.0 with oral presentation (category Scientific, GS).
Evaluation: Active participation

Organizers:  Prof. Redouan Bshary or Prof. Ted Turlings

Coordinator: Dr Christiane Bobillier, Université de Neuchâtel, NCCR Plant Survival, Emile-Argand 11, Case postale 158, CH-2009 Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Registration fee / meals:
Lunches on Wednesday and Thursday, evening meal on Wednesday and coffee breaks are included for registered participants member of 3ème cycle romand en sciences biologique or for Ph.D. students of NCCR graduate school "Plants and their Environment". For all other participants the cost is CHF 80.00 (to be payed at the registration desk).

For Ph.D. students (3eme Cycle Romand participants or NCCR graduate school "Plants and their Environment" participants), a limited number of rooms are available free of charge (Cité universitaire (single), Foyers des Sablons 46 (double), or hôtel Touring au Lac (double)) breakfast not included. Please register on the registration form (1 night: arrival September 13, departure September 14, 2006). Deadline: 12 August 2006.

Cancellation policy: if you have not cancelled your registration before September 1 and you don't show up, the accommodation costs will be charged to you (except for medical reasons documented by a medical certificate or other circumstances beyond your control). 

All other participants are kindly requested to make their own arrangement.

The following prices have been negotiated with the hotels. When you make your reservation, please mention your participation at the seminar to get the listed prices. The prices are in CHF including breakfast unless mentioned otherwise.

  • Cité Universitaire and Foyer des Sablons (+41 32 727 6850; email: gob@citeu.ch): single 60.00 (students) / 70.00  (breakfast not included)
  • Hôtel Alpes et Lac*** (+41 32 723 1919): single 119.00 north / 146.00 lake, double 165.00 north / 185.00 lake
  • Hôtel des Arts*** (+41 32 727 6161): single 115.00, double 155.00, apartment 260.00/3 persons and 290.00 / 4 persons
  • Hôtel Beaulac**** (+41 32 723 1111): single 160.00, double 220.00
  • Hôtel de l'Ecluse*** (+41 32 729 9310): single 124.00, double 165.00, triple 210.00, quadruple 240.00
  • Hôtel Touring au Lac*** (+41 32 725 5501): single 80.00, double 100.00, suplement for breakfast: 15.50
  • Hôtel Les Vieux-Toits, Hauterive (bus 7, 10 minutes from Uni Mail) (+41 32 753 4242): single 93.00/104.00/115.00/135.00, double134.50/155.00/176.50

A more comprehensive list of accommodation possibilities can be found here :

Travel expenses:
Ph.D. students of the 3ème Cycle Romand and NCCR graduate school "Plants and their Environment" are eligible for reimbursement of incurred travel expenses on the basis of the price of public transportation (train ticket, half-fare card, and 2nd class). Please fill in this 3eme cycle romand  form (pdf document) or NCCR Graduate School form (pdf document) and send it with original tickets  to Dr Christiane Bobillier, not later than September 24, 2006. No reimbursement will be made past this date.


Registration : closed.
Deadline for registration: 20 August 2006.