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Population viscosity can promote the evolution of altruistic sterile helpers and eusociality

Lehmann L., Ravigné V., Keller L.. 2008. Proceedings - Royal Society. Biological Sciences, 275 (1645) : p. 1887-1895.

Because it increases relatedness between interacting individuals, population viscosity has been proposed to favour the evolution of altruistic helping. However, because it increases local competition between relatives, population viscosity may also act as a brake for the evolution of helping behaviours. In simple models, the kin selected fecundity benefits of helping are exactly cancelled out by the cost of increased competition between relatives when helping occurs after dispersal. This result has lead to the widespread view, especially among people working with social organisms, that special conditions are required for the evolution of altruism. Here, we re-examine this result by constructing a simple population genetic model where we analyse whether the evolution of a sterile worker caste (i.e. an extreme case of altruism) can be selected for by limited dispersal. We show that a sterile worker caste can be selected for even under the simplest life-cycle assumptions. This has relevant consequences for our understanding of the evolution of altruism in social organisms, as many social insects are characterized by limited dispersal and significant genetic population structure. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : reproduction; infertilité; modèle; comportement social; génétique des populations; Écologie animale

Thématique : Ecologie animale; Génétique et amélioration des animaux

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