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How to make a sterile helper

Downing, Philip A. LU ; Cornwallis, Charlie K. LU and Griffin, Ashleigh S. (2017) In BioEssays 39(1).
Abstract

The sterile worker castes found in the colonies of social insects are often cited as archetypal examples of altruism in nature. The challenge is to explain why losing the ability to mate has evolved as a superior strategy for transmitting genes into future generations. We propose that two conditions are necessary for the evolution of sterility: completely overlapping generations and monogamy. A review of the literature indicates that when these two conditions are met we consistently observe the evolution of sterile helpers. We explain the theory and evidence behind these ideas, and discuss the importance of ecology in predicting whether sterility will evolve using examples from social birds, mammals, and insects. In doing so, we offer... (More)

The sterile worker castes found in the colonies of social insects are often cited as archetypal examples of altruism in nature. The challenge is to explain why losing the ability to mate has evolved as a superior strategy for transmitting genes into future generations. We propose that two conditions are necessary for the evolution of sterility: completely overlapping generations and monogamy. A review of the literature indicates that when these two conditions are met we consistently observe the evolution of sterile helpers. We explain the theory and evidence behind these ideas, and discuss the importance of ecology in predicting whether sterility will evolve using examples from social birds, mammals, and insects. In doing so, we offer an explanation for the extraordinary lifespans of some cooperative species which hint at ways in which we can unlock the secrets of long life.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
cooperation, evolution, Hamilton's rule, longevity, monogamy, sterility
in
BioEssays
volume
39
issue
1
publisher
John Wiley & Sons
external identifiers
  • scopus:85006013227
  • wos:000396891900004
ISSN
0265-9247
DOI
10.1002/bies.201600136
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f647c33f-b781-4321-82c8-c68122db1713
date added to LUP
2017-03-16 14:41:04
date last changed
2017-09-18 11:32:59
@article{f647c33f-b781-4321-82c8-c68122db1713,
  abstract     = {<p>The sterile worker castes found in the colonies of social insects are often cited as archetypal examples of altruism in nature. The challenge is to explain why losing the ability to mate has evolved as a superior strategy for transmitting genes into future generations. We propose that two conditions are necessary for the evolution of sterility: completely overlapping generations and monogamy. A review of the literature indicates that when these two conditions are met we consistently observe the evolution of sterile helpers. We explain the theory and evidence behind these ideas, and discuss the importance of ecology in predicting whether sterility will evolve using examples from social birds, mammals, and insects. In doing so, we offer an explanation for the extraordinary lifespans of some cooperative species which hint at ways in which we can unlock the secrets of long life.</p>},
  articleno    = {e201600136},
  author       = {Downing, Philip A. and Cornwallis, Charlie K. and Griffin, Ashleigh S.},
  issn         = {0265-9247},
  keyword      = {cooperation,evolution,Hamilton's rule,longevity,monogamy,sterility},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  number       = {1},
  publisher    = {John Wiley & Sons},
  series       = {BioEssays},
  title        = {How to make a sterile helper},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bies.201600136},
  volume       = {39},
  year         = {2017},
}