Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Competition, loss of selfishness mark shift to supersociety

11.06.2007
How social or altruistic behavior evolved has been a central and hotly debated question, particularly by those researchers engaged in the study of social insect societies – ants, bees and wasps. In these groups, this question of what drives altruism also becomes critical to further understanding of how ancestral or primitive social organizations (with hierarchies and dominance fights, and poorly developed division of labor) evolve to become the more highly sophisticated networks found in some eusocial insect collectives termed “superorganisms.”

In a paper published online May 21 before print by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a pair of researchers from Cornell University and Arizona State University propose a model, based on tug-of-war theory, that may explain the selection pressures that mark the evolutionary transition from primitive society to superorganism and which may bring some order to the conflicted thinking about the roles of individual, kin, and group selection that underlie the formation of such advanced eusocial groups.

A superorganism ultimately emerges as a result of intergroup competition according to findings by theoretician H. Kern Reeve of Cornell University’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior and professor Bert Hölldobler of Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity.

Reeve and Hölldobler’s model is unique in that it is comprised of two interlocked nested tug-of-war theories. The first piece describes the tug of war over resource shares within a group or colony (intragroup competition), and the second piece incorporates the effects of a tug-of-war between competing colonies (intergroup competition).

According to Hölldobler, the path to colonial supergiant is first paved by the maximization of the inclusive fitness of each individual of the society. How this might arise, he believes, is that competition that might exist between individuals in the same society diminishes as the incipient colonial society becomes larger, better organized and contains better division of labor and ultimately, cohesiveness.

“Such societies in turn produce more reproductive offspring each year than neighboring societies that are less organized. Thus, genes or alleles that code for such behaviors will be propagated faster,” Hölldobler says.

The second piece of the model takes into account that “as the colonial organization of one group rises, there is a coincident rise in discrimination against members of other societies of the same species.” Hölldobler notes that the competition between societies soon becomes a major force reinforcing the evolutionary process: “In this way the society or insect colony becomes the extended phenotype of the collective genome of the society.”

Hölldobler believes that this model developed with Reeve goes further than others in explaining the evolutionary transition from hierarchical organizations to superorganism, “as it also demonstrates how the target of selection shifts from the individual and kin to group selection.”

Such a nested tug-of-war model, he says, might also be applied “equally well to the analysis of the evolution of other animal societies” and give insight into the evolution of cooperation in non-human and human primates, in addition to such things as collectives of cells and the formation of bacterial films.

Hölldobler is the Pulitzer Prize winning author (1991, non-fiction) of “The Ants,” co-authored with Edward O. Wilson, Harvard Professor Emeritus. Hölldobler’s research on the evolution of social organizations for this tiny, formidable insect has taken him around the world, led to the authorship of more than 300 articles and has garnered many international awards, including the Treviranus Medal, U.S. Senior Scientist Prize and Werner Heisenberg-Medal of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, some of the most prestigious science prizes given in Europe. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the former Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology of Harvard University, and Professor Emeritus, University of Würzburg, Germany. In addition to being a professor in the School of Life Sciences and the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU, he is also Cornell University’s Andrew D. White Professor at Large.

Margaret Coulombe, margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
(480) 727-8934

Margaret Coulombe | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>