Elasticity/Viscosity

Elasticity/Viscosity top image

Why do individuals cooperate and to what extent do they compete? These questions are at the core of Evolutionary Theory. Ever since Darwin, the question of how natural selection (which in a naive way is all about selfishness) is compatible with cooperation has puzzled scientists.

Biologists now understand fairly well a whole range of situations in which an altruistic behavior is favored by natural selection. Some of the most prominent explanations are kinship (blood relatives share the same genes), reciprocity (I scratch your back if you scratch mine), reputation (that individual always helps other... I should help him), punishment (cooperate, or else...), and more. However, we still don't understand altruism perfectly.

For species that don't have the capacity to keep track of reputations, or are incapable of enforcement, kinship is the main factor for cooperation. If there is also limited dispersal of juveniles (that is, offspring live somewhat near where they were born) then near-by individuals should be more related than average, which in turn should help altruism to evolve. This process is known as population viscosity. However, it is recognized that being close to relatives carries its own problems. One competes strongly with neighbors, and if neighbors are relatives, then the benefits of altruism could be offset by the costs of kin-competition.

In an article I am co-authoring with David Haig, we explore the extent of the competitive forces in a viscous population and study how it affects the evolution of altruism. The article is currently under review.

About Me

Edgar Edgar A. Duéñez Guzmán is now a Software Engineer. Previously he was a Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Biology at KU Leuven working with Tom Wenseleers in social evolution in microbes;
and a Research Associate at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University working with David Haig in social evolution and imprinting.
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Contact Info

E-mail: eaduenez {at} gmail {dot} com