Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Love or kill thy neighbor? New study into animal social behavior

Date:
March 6, 2014
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
A theoretical study has shed new light on the conditions that lead to the evolution of spite or altruism in structured populations. Understanding the way in which social behaviors such as altruism -- when animals benefit others at their own expense -- develop is a long-standing problem that has generated thousands of articles and heated debates.

Meerkats (stock image).
Credit: © anekoho / Fotolia

A theoretical study led by the University of Exeter has shed new light on the conditions that lead to the evolution of spite or altruism in structured populations.

Understanding the way in which social behaviours such as altruism -- when animals benefit others at their own expense -- develop is a long-standing problem that has generated thousands of articles and heated debates.

Dr Florence Débarre of Biosciences at the University of Exeter led a study, published today in Nature Communications, which presents a comprehensive framework that applies to a large class of population structures and identifies the crucial elements which support the evolution of social behaviour.

Structured populations are those exhibiting either spatial or social structure. This can range from animals living in social groups -- like meerkats -- to bacteria in biofilms.

In these populations altruism evolves if, for individuals, the social benefit of living next to others outweighs the costs of competing against them.

Traditionally, population modellers have assumed that the direct benefits and costs of social interactions affect the ability to produce offspring (the fecundity). In natural populations, however, social interactions may also affect survival.

Dr Débarre and her collaborators combined these two features in their model, which revealed new insights. It turns out that helping your neighbours reproduce more or helping them live for longer does not have the same indirect consequences on your own fitness. These indirect consequences are crucial, and determine which type of social behaviour (helping, harming or doing nothing) can evolve.

When competition is fierce because space is so limited that an individual can only reproduce after some space has been freed up by the death of a neighbour, the researcher's results show that the social behaviours that are most advantageous are the ones in which individuals make their neighbours die sooner but at the same time help them reproduce. In other terms, the interaction is spiteful when it comes to survival, but altruistic on fecundity.

Dr Débarre, who is based at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: "In structured populations, social behaviour evolves if, for social individuals, the net social benefit of living next to other social individuals outweighs the costs of competing against them. We show that the latter depends on the way the population is updated, the type of social game that is played, and on how social interactions affect individual fertility and survival.

"There are ongoing and sometimes very heated debates on which mechanisms favour the evolution of social behaviour. Our mathematical framework also aims at reconciling these different approaches, and shows that they mainly correspond to different viewpoints of the same questions, depending on if we want to give explanations in terms of who is giving benefits to others, or who is receiving benefits."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. F. Débarre, C. Hauert, M. Doebeli. Social evolution in structured populations. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4409

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Love or kill thy neighbor? New study into animal social behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306093756.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2014, March 6). Love or kill thy neighbor? New study into animal social behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306093756.htm
University of Exeter. "Love or kill thy neighbor? New study into animal social behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306093756.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
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