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Altruism in a volatile world [Nature]

Keywords : animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, evolutionary theory, social evolution

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

The evolution of altruism—costly self-sacrifice in the service of others—has puzzled biologists since The Origin of Species. For half a century, attempts to understand altruism have developed around the concept that altruists may help relatives to have extra offspring in order to spread shared genes. This theory—known as inclusive fitness—is founded on a simple inequality termed Hamilton’s rule. However, explanations of altruism have typically not considered the stochasticity of natural environments, which will not necessarily favour genotypes that produce the greatest average reproductive success. Moreover, empirical data across many taxa reveal associations between altruism and environmental stochasticity, a pattern not predicted by standard interpretations of Hamilton’s rule.(...)

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