Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why Are Animals Altruistic?

Date:
April 5, 2006
Source:
Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique
Summary:
Researchers at the Laboratoire d'Écologie at the University Pierre and Marie Curie (Ecole Normale Supérieure/CNRS) and the Royal Holloway College (London, United Kingdom) have just explained the evolution of altruistic behavior in animals.

Researchers at the Laboratoire d'Écologie at the University Pierre and Marie Curie (Ecole Normale Supérieure/CNRS) and the Royal Holloway College (London, United Kingdom) have just explained the evolution of altruistic behavior in animals.

In nature animals have been observed cooperating, and the detection of a genetic predisposition to this type of behavior contradicts Darwin's theory of evolution which predicts a better survival rate for the most selfish animals. The use of mathematic modeling has provided a new explanation for the surprising persistence of this type of behavior which appears, at first sight, to be detrimental to the animal adopting it.

This work is published in Nature on 30 March 2006.

Even today Darwin's Theory of Evolution continues to give rise to scientific debates. One of the subjects which triggers such debate is that of altruism, regularly observed in several animal classes. This type of behavior consists of helping another animal, at the expense of the helper's well-being. In general altruists only help family members and in this way the behavior contributes indirectly to the transmission of a part of their genes (selection of the immediate family).

However “selfish” individuals may “cheat” and receive help while giving none in return. What to make of these cheaters, who have an advantage, and hence can better transmit their genes?

W.D. Hamilton, one of the first proponents of the modern theory of evolution, assumed that the altruists could identify each other. However, this does not take into account the incredible capacity of all living beings to adapt. The so-called “green beard” theory illustrates this question: the theory posits that altruists could have green beards, and thus be recognized by other altruists. The few selfish individuals of the same species which also have green beards will effectively have the opportunity to cheat…and will succeed at the expense of the altruists.

Real life examples seem to uphold this theory because such situations exist in the natural world. Of course they do not involve green beards but, for example, ants secreting scents or molecules produced by bacteria.

Vincent Jansen and Minus Van Baalen of the Laboratoire d'écologie at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie (ENS/CNRS) have just introduced a new factor which supports Hamilton's explanation. Using mathematical modeling, they have demonstrated that cooperation can be selected for during the evolution of a species if the altruists can change the “color of their beards” when the cheaters become too numerous. In this game of evolutionary cat and mouse the altruists are always one step ahead of the cheaters.

This discovery explains the enigma created by the detection of genes leading to a predisposition in altruists to recognize each other.

Reference:
Vincent Jansen & Minus Van Baalen. Altruism through beard chromodynamics. Nature, 30 March 2006.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique. "Why Are Animals Altruistic?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060404201741.htm>.
Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique. (2006, April 5). Why Are Animals Altruistic?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060404201741.htm
Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique. "Why Are Animals Altruistic?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060404201741.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins