Sylvie Estrela, Eric Libby, Jeremy Van Cleve, Florence Debarre, Maxime Deforet, William R. Harcombe, Jorge Pena, Sam P. Brown and Michael E. Hochberg
By consuming and producing environmental resources, organisms inevitably change their habitats. The consequences of such environmental modifications can be detrimental or beneficial not only to the focal organism but also to other organisms sharing the same environment. Social evolution theory has been very influential in studying how social interactions mediated by public 'goods' or 'bads' evolve by emphasizing the role of spatial structure. The environmental dimensions driving these interactions, however, are typically abstracted away. We propose here a new, environment-mediated taxonomy of social behaviors where organisms are categorized by their production or consumption of environmental factors that can help or harm others in the environment. We discuss microbial examples of our classification and highlight the importance of environmental intermediates more generally.