Organisms as Economic Agents

Essay by araggi1A+, March 2005

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Humans often wonder why organisms and/or individuals do what they do and why. However, this is no easy question to answer. But modern research and studies are beginning to get a handle on the complexity of organism behavior and their reasons for acting the way they do. A good approach to understand this topic is to relate the situation to humans and our economic actions; organisms act as economic agents. It is well known that organisms will act in a way that is best for them, and for this reason they are cost-benefit maximizers, much like humans today. This article will discuss some of the ways and methods organisms follow this model and why things are the way they are in our world today.

Organisms will choose to do or act in a way that allows them to receive the greatest benefit while the cost is the lowest. For example, organisms will choose to prey upon others organisms that allow them to expend the least amount of energy and time while gaining the maximum amount of nutrients and energy from their prey.

Optimization within organisms is not a result of just one sophistication. Adaptations, which allow for organisms to change over time to better their survival and reproduction rates, allow for the most-fit organism to experience the benefits of optimization. Optimal foraging, another method to maximize their survival, is shown by the example above in which organisms will clearly do what is most efficient energy and time wise when foraging. In addition, organisms also engage in an act known as mimicry (imitation of another organism) to better enable their survival and produce greater results when searching and/or hiding from prey.

Over the years there has been a great deal of study and research in the area of adaptation. There are...