The Nature of Cooperation

There’s a really outstanding post today on Evolutionary Biologist Olivia Judson’s Wild Side blog on the New York Times web site. Titled A Mutual Affair, Judson’s post explains some of the cooperative relationships that exist among animal species, including the living arrangement of the shrimp and goby (a small fish).

Judson writes that, “The shrimp build and maintain a burrow, which the goby and shrimp live in together. Each shrimp works hard, shoveling sand out of the front entrance like a miniature bulldozer.

“The goby just sits in the entrance of the burrow, keeping guard and warning the shrimp, which is nearly blind, of danger. At any sign of danger — a diver coming too close, a passing predator — the goby darts into the burrow. If the goby zooms in, the shrimp hastily retreats deep inside. And before the shrimp emerges from the burrow, it touches the goby’s tail with its long antennae. To show it’s safe to come out, the goby gently wiggles its tail. When the shrimp is out of the burrow, it keeps one antenna touching the goby. If the goby suddenly retreats, so does the shrimp.”

Judson explains this arrangement as benefiting both parties – the goby without the shrimp has no burrow to retreat to and is soon killed by predators, while the shrimp without the goby will not grow as quickly.

Judson’s post reminds us that nature (and humankind by extension) is about interdependence & mutuality … cooperation if you will. (OK OK, it’s also about the lion eating the wildebeest, and JPMorgan Chase eating Bear Stearns).  

But credit unions will continue to be strong if we act more like the goby and shrimp, and less like the lion and wildebeest. 

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One Response

  1. Hi Jeff, what a wonderful parallel. This is what I love about the credit union community – dedicated people like yourself keeping us focused on the ideal and purpose of credit unions.

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