Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Helping in a selfish world

13.07.2005


Fishing for answers to the co-operation question



Billions of people tuned into recent Live 8 concert broadcasts, some just for the music, others to support the altruistic cause spearheaded by former Boomtown Rat, Sir Bob Geldof. In today’s rat-race climate, what makes some of us look out for each other, while others look out for themselves?

According to evolutionary theory, natural selection has designed individuals to behave selfishishly; selfish individuals are likely to end up with more resources and therefore more offspring. But many species (including humans, some rock musicians, politicians, and everyday citizens among them) do co-operate.


Traditionally, scientists have explained the evolution of co-operation using the idea of kin selection. Help to relatives (who share your genes) makes sense if it means your relative will have more children who will carry your genes into the next generation. Therefore, relatives are expected to help more. However, in a study published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, McMaster University researchers show that in certain situations the reverse is true: unrelated individuals help more.

Sigal Balshine, associate professor of in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster and her graduate student Kelly Stiver have been studying a small species of African cichlid fish that live in groups with a dominant breeding pair and non-breeding helpers. All individuals (helpers and breeders) co-operate to defend the young and the territory. The researchers combined behavioural observations with genetic analyses of relatedness in these fish groups and found that under specific ecological and demographic conditions unrelated individuals must "pay-to-stay" in the group and therefore may help more.

"This fish species is particularly interesting because breeders and helpers are not close relatives, but they co-operate nevertheless," says Balshine. "We think that unrelated individuals may be required to "pay more" by doing more work than related individuals in order to be allowed access and enjoy the benefits of being part of a group."

Using a combination of laboratory experiments and underwater field observations in Lake Tanganyika (Zambia), Stiver and Balshine examined how the help provided to breeders varied by how related the helpers were to the breeders. "While some helpers work or care for young because they are related to the dominant breeders, we also observed that other unrelated helpers work as a kind of rent payment," says Stiver.

Like in a commune or a kibbutz where non-relatives work together to achieve a common goal, these helper fish donate their time and energy to the group in exchange for the safety of living within the group. In a sense, these tiny African fish take a larger than usual worldview, and continued studies of co-operation in this species and other animals may shed light on the factors promoting co-operation in our own species.

The paper is available online at www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/link.asp?id=4elc7n9j2au5tb95.

McMaster University, named Canada’s Research University of the Year by Research InfoSource, has world-renowned faculty and state-of-the-art research facilities. McMaster’s culture of innovation fosters a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University has a student population of more than 23,000 and more than 112,000 alumni in 128 countries.

Julia Thomson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mcmaster.ca

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>