Unsure if this is off topic but have there been any attempts to look at the "economics of nature"? I mean this in the sense of measuring the "economic activities" of the animal kingdom.

From wikipedia

An economy (From Greek οίκος – "household" and νέμoμαι – "manage") is an area of the production, distribution, or trade, and consumption of goods and services by different agents in a given geographical location.

we can see all of these activities in a bee hive (other than trade I guess). It seems like it can work very well with alot of the inter-temporal models we see in intermediate macroeconomics.

Practical questions for analysis include:

  • How is "income" or food distributed in a colony
  • what is the Lorenz curve in a colony
  • what is the MRS between present and future consumption in a colony

It would be interesting for the sake of real world policy application, much like engineers design from nature can we create economic policy from it?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is increasing use of studying apes in behavioral economics. When i get a couple free moments later today ill upload some information which will hopefully help you out $\endgroup$
    – bdempe
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 13:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @bdempe Please share the ape info, some of us are still interested. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Another interesting avenue to look into is game theoretic analysis of animal interactions. Competition among resources and sustainability of certain animal populations among other things. They characterize certain "types" within animal species (e.g. more vs. less aggressive) and how they interact when they meet one another as well as looking into the proportions of said types. Neat stuff. $\endgroup$
    – Brennan
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


A first, basic approach approach could be optimal foraging theory:

To maximize fitness, an animal adopts a foraging strategy that provides the most benefit (energy) for the lowest cost, maximizing the net energy gained.

Here is a case for studying animal behaviour to better understand human behaviour:
Why we should use animals to study economic decision making – a perspective

[W]e make a case that the sense or nonsense of the behavioral violations of optimality principles in humans can best be understood from an evolutionary perspective, thus requiring animal research.

This article mentions various studies related to animal economics:
The Secret Economic Lives of Animals


You may want to take a look at Evolutionary Game Theory. Instead of using the regular equilibrium concept developed by Nash, it uses the concept of an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS). The idea isn't that players are rational and are choosing strategies given what others are doing to maximize payoff. The idea is: each mutation of that species is "programed" to adopt a particular action (instinct), and when different mutations of the gene interact, it will generate probabilities of survival. Thus, an equilibrium strategy is an ESS, which are the types of actions instinctive to a certain gene type, which will tend to survive and procreate, passing forth the gene. Game Theory is a field that has had intensive collaboration between Biology and Economics. I am sure you will find some interesting stuff.


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