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Article Dans Une Revue Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Année : 2014

The genetical theory of social behaviour


We survey the population genetic basis of social evolution, using a logically consistent set of arguments to cover a wide range of biological scenarios. We start by reconsidering Hamilton's (Hamilton 1964 J. Theoret. Biol.7, 1–16 (doi:10.1016/0022-5193(64)90038-4)) results for selection on a social trait under the assumptions of additive gene action, weak selection and constant environment and demography. This yields a prediction for the direction of allele frequency change in terms of phenotypic costs and benefits and genealogical concepts of relatedness, which holds for any frequency of the trait in the population, and provides the foundation for further developments and extensions. We then allow for any type of gene interaction within and between individuals, strong selection and fluctuating environments and demography, which may depend on the evolving trait itself. We reach three conclusions pertaining to selection on social behaviours under broad conditions. (i) Selection can be understood by focusing on a one-generation change in mean allele frequency, a computation which underpins the utility of reproductive value weights; (ii) in large populations under the assumptions of additive gene action and weak selection, this change is of constant sign for any allele frequency and is predicted by a phenotypic selection gradient; (iii) under the assumptions of trait substitution sequences, such phenotypic selection gradients suffice to characterize long-term multi-dimensional stochastic evolution, with almost no knowledge about the genetic details underlying the coevolving traits. Having such simple results about the effect of selection regardless of population structure and type of social interactions can help to delineate the common features of distinct biological processes. Finally, we clarify some persistent divergences within social evolution theory, with respect to exactness, synergies, maximization, dynamic sufficiency and the role of genetic arguments.

Dates et versions

hal-03033111 , version 1 (01-12-2020)



Laurent Lehmann, François Rousset. The genetical theory of social behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014, 369 (1642), pp.20130357. ⟨10.1098/rstb.2013.0357⟩. ⟨hal-03033111⟩
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