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Rarity is a term on the site referring to the relative abundance of a particular dragon breed. Dragon populations are loosely controlled by a base rarity variable which influences breeding success, and drop rate in the cave (where applicable). Rarity can also be impacted by user demand, with more sought-after breeds appearing more rare as they are quickly picked up from the cave or Abandoned Page. Alternates and variants of dragons often differ in rarity in comparison to the typical appearance of a breed.

Overexploitation of living species (i.e., human exploitation exceeding the species' regeneration capacity) is a major threat to biodiversity [1], yet theory predicts that economic extinction (exploitation cessation) will usually precede ecological extinction (population disappearance). As populations become more sparse, it is increasingly costly to exploit them, and exploitation ceases to be beneficial [2]. In the absence of natural extinction risks at low population size (e.g., demographic stochasticity), exploitation cessation allows for the species' recovery. However, less-abundant species could suffer disproportionately from exploitation if their rarity makes them systematically more valuable. We postulate that because rarity makes living species attractive, their (over)exploitation can remain profitable, rendering such species even rarer, and driving them to extinction.

The AAE is founded on two fundamental assumptions: (i) there is a positive correlation between species rarity and its value, and (ii) this correlation fuels sufficient demand to ensure that the market price exceeds the escalating costs of finding and harvesting a declining species. If these simple conditions are met, harvesting reduces the population of the rare species, increasing its rarity and therefore its value, which stimulates further harvesting and drives the species into an extinction vortex.

The price (red, thick line) and cost (blue, thin line) per unit harvest in unit time as a function of the population density x when (A) the price is independent of x and (B) the price increases with rarity. The system is in equilibrium whenever the red and blue lines meet, and the bold arrows represent how the population responds when perturbed from equilibrium. In (B), an increased price at low population density induces an Allee Effect.

These results can also be understood within the framework of supply and demand theory. Clark [2] showed that the open-access exploitation model can be solved at equilibrium to obtain a relation between yield (qEx) and price, the equilibrium supply curve. That supply curve for an exploited population is backward-bending, corresponding to overexploitation when the species is hunted at levels above the maximum sustainable yield. In traditional models, the demand curve is usually elastic (i.e., the quantity purchased is sensitive to changes in price), and hence only intersects the supply curve once. It is this price that determines the equilibrium population size and exploitation effort. However, our assumption that people are willing to pay more for rare species results in a demand curve which becomes increasingly inelastic with rarity, and the supply curve is cut twice, exactly as in Figure 1B: the population is harvested to extinction if its drops below the lower equilibrium.

Data showing a positive relationship between price and rarity are scarce but do exist for a number of nature-related economic activities (we present some analyses in Figure 2). The second assumption of the AAE, that prices increase with rarity faster than the exploitation costs, may be more difficult to test. In general, one might expect that increasing exploitation costs lead to increasing prices, which in turn results in a drop in demand. However, other factors act to reinforce the demand, for example, when it becomes fashionable to acquire a rare item (see examples below). The second assumption is therefore fulfilled if there are always a few co


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