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posted 17. May 2002 10:00
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 99, Issue 10, 6843-6847, May 14, 2002
Sex-ratio conflicts, kin selection, and the evolution of altruism
by Wladimir J. Alonso and Cynthia Schuck-Paim
Abstract-Kin-selection theory has thrived in the explanation of a wide variety of biological phenomena, chiefly the evolution of biological altruism as that found in sterile castes of eusocial insects. Much of the way in which it has been tested is based on the existence of conflicts over sex-ratio production
within eusocial colonies. However, despite neatly showing eusocial colonies as arenas where selection at the gene level triggers the appearance of sophisticated disputes, these studies have only demonstrated the existence of genes that act by biasing sex ratios to promote their own spread. Here we argue that such genes depend on the social organization of the colonies where they are expressed, but that they are not, in any way, the precursors of these societies--the major implication being that unequivocal evidence that eusociality evolved through the action of kin-selected altruistic genes is still lacking. Additionally, we highlight the neglect of alternative theories on the explanation of both biological altruism and sex-ratio conflicts, and defend that the enthusiasm with the latter has, in some cases, led to its inappropriate use as a basis for the explanation of other biological characteristics of eusocial organisms, when accounts based on phylogenetic or physiological constraints are also available.
[ 17 May 2002, 10:00: Message edited by: Moderator ]