Timothy A. Linksvayer

in Evolutionary Biology

Published online January 2014 | | DOI:

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The evolution of eusociality has long been described as an evolutionary puzzle because eusociality entails a reproductive division of labor whereby some group members reproduce and others do not. How could such apparent reproductive altruism evolve by natural selection? Kin selection provides an ultimate evolutionary mechanism by which a sterile worker caste can evolve, but it does not provide insight into the precise selective costs and benefits that can favor the evolution of such reproductive altruism. Researchers have modeled various potential benefits and, less frequently, have empirically studied the costs and benefits for specific species. Other research has focused on the proximate details for the expression of eusociality—for example, The Genetic Basis of traits involved in the evolution of eusociality. The evolution of eusociality is also considered to be one of the major transitions in evolution, along with the evolution of chromosomes, eukaryotes, and multicellular organisms. As such, understanding the mechanisms enabling the cooperation of group members and the coordination of functions within eusocial groups may have broader impacts on understanding other levels of biological organization. Finally, eusocial groups have been the focus of intense research into conflicts of interest among group members. While cooperation can evolve when individuals are related, individuals are usually not perfectly related (i.e., clones), so their evolutionary interests may not be completely aligned. The literature concerning the evolution of eusociality has featured several recurring debates, including how to define eusociality; the importance and overlap of kin selection theory, group selection (or multi-level selection) theory, and other theoretical frameworks; and a more subtle discussion about what levels of analysis provide the strongest insights into the evolution of eusociality.

Article.  7432 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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