Pedigree relatedness, not greenbeard genes, explains eusociality

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The evolution of eusociality, where some individuals altruistically forgo reproduction, poses a dilemma which can be solved by kin selection, i.e. by considering relatedness among cooperating individuals. Most often, such relatedness is caused by pedigree relationships between family members. However, an alternative explanation has recently emerged in an article by Wilson and Hölldobler (2005). Wilson and Hölldobler see the ecological benefit of group living as the principal reason for sociality. In their scenario, individuals sharing the same altruistic allele (analogous to a greenbeard gene) preferentially interact with each other, regardless of pedigree relatedness. We argue that empirical evidence has the potential to answer the question of whether pedigree relatedness plays a role in the evolution of eusociality. We conclude that both phylogenetic studies and studies of intra-genomic conflict support the importance of pedigree relatedness in the evolution of eusociality.

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