Lifetime monogamy and the evolution of eusociality

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All evidence currently available indicates that obligatory sterile eusocial castes only arose via the association of lifetime monogamous parents and offspring. This is consistent with Hamilton's rule (br(s) > r(o)c), but implies that relatedness cancels out of the equation because average relatedness to siblings (r(s)) and offspring (r(o)) are both predictably 0.5. This equality implies that any infinitesimally small benefit of helping at the maternal nest (b), relative to the cost in personal reproduction (c) that persists throughout the lifespan of entire cohorts of helpers suffices to establish permanent eusociality, so that group benefits can increase gradually during, but mostly after the transition. The monogamy window can be conceptualized as a singularity comparable with the single zygote commitment of gametes in eukaryotes. The increase of colony size in ants, bees, wasps and termites is thus analogous to the evolution of multicellularity. Focusing on lifetime monogamy as a universal precondition for the evolution of obligate eusociality simplifies the theory and may help to resolve controversies about levels of selection and targets of adaptation. The monogamy window underlines that cooperative breeding and eusociality are different domains of social evolution, characterized by different sectors of parameter space for Hamilton's rule.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences
Issue number1533
Pages (from-to)3191-207
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Keywords: Animals; Evolution; Hymenoptera; Selection, Genetic; Sexual Behavior, Animal; Social Behavior

ID: 18389871