Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Altruistic Rats: First Evidence For Generalized Reciprocal Cooperation In Non-humans

Date:
July 5, 2007
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Empirical evidence from rats supports the theory of generalized reciprocity, in which individuals are more likely to cooperate with an unknown individual if they have received help in the past.

In this study, rats received help gaining food from a partner who pulled a stick to produce the food. Rats could therefore be grouped into two classes: those that had previously received help and those that had not. The rats who had previously been helped were then more likely to help another unknown partner receive food.
Credit: iStockphoto/Leroy Dickson

Cooperation in animals has long been a major focus in evolutionary biology. In particular, reciprocal altruism, where helpful acts are contingent upon the likelihood of getting help in return, is especially intriguing because it is open to cheaters. In a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, Claudia Rutte and Michael Taborsky demonstrate the first evidence for generalized reciprocal cooperation in non-humans. The authors show that rats who received help in the past were more likely to help another unknown partner.

Although many models have predicted reciprocal altruism, scientists had found evidence only of direct reciprocity ("if you help me, I'll help you") in non-human animals in previous studies. Direct reciprocity is intuitively appealing, yet requires that animals interact repeatedly with the same individuals and remember past interactions. By comparison, generalized reciprocity makes no such cognitive assumptions. In generalized reciprocity, animals are more likely to help a partner if they have been helped in the past, regardless of the past helper's identity.

For example, in humans, people who found a coin in the coin return of a telephone were more likely to help a stranger pick up dropped papers than control subjects who had not previously found money. In humans, this can be explained by cultural experience as well as by natural selection. But if similar reactions to anonymous experience can be found in non human animals, an evolutionary explanation would be far more likely.

In this study, Norway rats received help gaining food from a partner who pulled a stick to produce the food. Rats could therefore be grouped into two classes: those that had previously received help and those that had not. The rats who had previously been helped were then more likely to help another unknown partner receive food. This simple mechanism may promote the evolution of cooperation among unfamiliar non-relatives in many other animals.

Citation: Rutte C, Taborsky M (2007) Generalized reciprocity in rats. PLoS Biol 5(7): e196. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050196.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Altruistic Rats: First Evidence For Generalized Reciprocal Cooperation In Non-humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070703173345.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2007, July 5). Altruistic Rats: First Evidence For Generalized Reciprocal Cooperation In Non-humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070703173345.htm
Public Library of Science. "Altruistic Rats: First Evidence For Generalized Reciprocal Cooperation In Non-humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070703173345.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. 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