Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Not all altruism is alike, says new study

Date:
April 30, 2012
Source:
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Summary:
Not all acts of altruism are alike, says a new study. From bees and wasps that die defending their nests, to elephants that cooperate to care for young, a new mathematical model pinpoints the environmental conditions that favor one form of altruism over another. The model predicts that creatures will help each other in different ways depending on whether key resources such as food and habitat are scarce or abundant, researchers say.

Not all acts of altruism are alike, says a new study. From bees and wasps that die defending their nests, to elephants that cooperate to care for young, a new mathematical model pinpoints the environmental conditions that favor one form of altruism over another.

The model predicts that creatures will help each other in different ways depending on whether key resources such as food and habitat are scarce or abundant, say researchers from Indiana University and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Examples of creatures caring for others at the expense of themselves are well-known. Ants, bees, and some birds will help their relatives raise kids rather than raise kids of their own. Even the simplest of social creatures, such as single-celled bacteria and slime molds and other microbes, sometimes sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of their group.

Most mathematical models of how cooperation comes to be assume that all forms of altruism provide similar perks. But the benefits of altruism are different for different behaviors, said study author Michael Wade, a professor at Indiana University and a visiting scholar at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center.

For example, some creatures cooperate for the sake of defense, others to find food, and others to care for young, he explained.

In a new study, Wade and collaborator J. David Van Dyken of Indiana University model the full range of altruistic behaviors to identify the environmental conditions that favor one type of altruism over another.

Their results show that when key local resources such as food or habitat are scarce, altruistic behaviors that provide more of those resources, or that use them more efficiently, will be favored. Think of lions banding together to hunt and take down prey, or honey bees sharing their findings as they forage for food. Many animals guide other members of their group to newly discovered meals, or bring food back to share with their nest mates.

But when resources are abundant, altruistic behaviors that help other individuals live longer, or produce more offspring, will give organisms an edge. Animals such as songbirds, ungulates and chimpanzees, for example, make alarm calls to warn nearby group members of approaching predators, braving danger to protect others.

As local resources wax and wane, one form of altruism may shift to another over time.

"But the bottom line is that the way creatures are likely to help each other when times are tight is different from how they're likely to help each other in times of plenty," Wade said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. David Van Dyken, Michael J. Wade. Origins of altruism diversity I: the diverse ecological roles of altruistic strategies and their evolutionary responses to local competition. Evolution, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01630.x

Cite This Page:

National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). "Not all altruism is alike, says new study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430140023.htm>.
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). (2012, April 30). Not all altruism is alike, says new study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430140023.htm
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). "Not all altruism is alike, says new study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430140023.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Two white lion cubs were born in Belgrade zoo three weeks ago. White lions are a rare mutation of a species found in South Africa and some cultures consider them divine. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

AP (Oct. 16, 2014) With hard cider making a hardcore comeback across the country, craft makers are trying to keep up with demand and apple growers are tapping a juicy new revenue stream. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Buzz60 (Oct. 16, 2014) Garfi is one frowny, feisty feline - downright angry! Ko Im (@koimtv) introduces us to the latest animal celebrity taking over the Internet. You can follow more of Garfi's adventures on Twitter (@MeetGarfi) and Facebook (Garfi). Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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