Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Altruism in social insects IS a family affair

30.05.2008
The contentious debate about why insects evolved to put the interests of the colony over the individual has been reignited by new research from the University of Leeds, showing that they do so to increase the chances that their genes will be passed on.

A team led by Dr Bill Hughes of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences studied 'kin selection' – the theory that an animal may pass on its genes by helping relatives to reproduce, because they share common genes, rather than by reproducing itself.

The concept of ‘kin selection’ was developed in 1964 by the evolutionary biologist Bill Hamilton, first proposed by Charles Darwin to explain, for example, why sterile workers evolved in social insect groups and why a honeybee would sacrifice its life to defend the colony. Charles Darwin recognized that such altruistic behaviour in highly social insect groups was at odds with his theory of natural selection, and Bill Hamilton’s theory of kin selection showed that this behaviour can evolve because it still fulfills the drive to pass on genes - but through relatives instead.

As such, high relatedness between insects has generally been seen as essential for the evolution of highly social behaviour and until recently, kin selection was widely accepted by the scientific community.

... more about:
»Hughes »Theory »Wilson »genes »relatedness »selection

But this paradigm was challenged in 2005 by the eminent academic E.O. Wilson, the founder of sociobiology, who pointed out that relatedness is rather low in some of today's social insects. He suggested that highly social behaviour evolves solely because individuals do better when they cooperate than when they live a solitary life - a controversial theory which not only conflicted with 45 years of scientific research, but which also sparked a highly charged debate between Wilson and Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene.

Dr Hughes and colleagues at the Universities of Sydney and Sussex tested the two alternative theories by examining the level of relatedness between females in colonies of bees, wasps and ants, determined by DNA fingerprinting techniques, and using statistical methods to look at levels of monogamy in the ancestral social insects when they evolved up to 100 million years ago.

If females were monogamous, mating with one male, this would mean the members of the colony are highly related, and so Hamilton’s theory would be correct. If they were polygamous, with the female mating with many males, relatedness would be lower and so Wilson may be right after all.

The research, published in the current issue of the prestigious academic journal, Science, found that in every group studied(1) ancestral females were found to be monogamous, providing the first evidence that kin selection is fundamental to the evolution of social insects.

Dr Hughes said: "We have produced the first conclusive evidence that kin selection explains the evolution of social insects and that Wilson's hypothesis is most probably wrong. By challenging something that we have based all our understanding on for 45 years, Wilson has forced us all to examine the theory again and assess the logic of the arguments. In a recent media interview, he issued a challenge to the scientific community to prove his theory wrong and whilst many felt it was, there hasn’t been any hard evidence until now.”

The research was carried out by Dr Hughes, Professor Ben Oldroyd of the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Madeleine Beekman of the University of Sydney and Professor Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex.

Jo Kelly | alfa
Further information:
http://www.leeds.ac.uk

Further reports about: Hughes Theory Wilson genes relatedness selection

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

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 >>>