Group Selection

Abstract

Group selection refers to the process of natural selection at the level of the group. Groups are collections of individuals that affect each other's fitness. Group selection partitions the effect of selection into ‘within‐group’ and ‘between‐group’ components. When between‐group selection is strong relative to within‐group selection, highly altruistic behaviors may evolve.

Keywords: group selection; altruism; trait group; predator inspection

Figure 1.

Schematic of how trait group selection operates. Imagine an initial unstructured population, with a frequency (pGlobal) of altruists equal to 0.46. This population is then broken up into three trait groups. The three trait groups vary in the frequency of altruists, ranging from p = 0.0 (in group 3) to p = 0.9 (in group 1). Natural selection now operates in each group. Because altruists pay a cost as compared with their selfish groupmates, the frequency of altruists in each group decreases (p1 = 0.9, p1 = 0.85; p2 = 0.5, p2 = 0.43) or remains the same (p3 = 0.0, p3 = 0.0). However, the more altruists in a group, the more total group members after selection operates. As such, selection within groups favors selfishness, and selection between groups favors altruism. Here, between‐group selection is stronger than within‐group selection and so, when we place our three groups back together (into an unstructured population, to restart the process of trait group selection), the global frequency of altruism has risen (from 0.46 to 0.50) despite the fact that the frequency of altruism in each of the three trait groups decreased or remained the same.

close

References

Darwin C (1871) The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London, UK: J Murray.

Dawkins R (1976) The Selfish Gene, 1st edn. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dawkins R (1982) The Extended Phenotype. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dugatkin LA and Godin J‐G (1992) Predator inspection, shoaling and foraging under predation hazard in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Environmental Biology of Fishes 34: 265–276.

Endler J (1986) Natural Selection in the Wild. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Keller L (ed.) (1999) Levels of Selection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Magurran AE and Pitcher TJ (1987) Provenance, shoal size and the sociobiology of predator‐evasion in minnow shoals. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 229: 439–465.

Rissing S, Pollock G, Higgins M, Hagen R and Smith D (1989) Foraging specialization without relatedness or dominance among co‐founding ant queens. Nature 338: 420–422.

Slatkin M (1981) Populational heritability. Evolution 35: 859–871.

Sober E and Wilson DS (1998) Unto Others. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wilson DS (1980) The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin Cummings Publishing Company.

Further Reading

Dugatkin LA and Reeve HK (1994) Behavioral ecology and ‘levels of selection’: dissolving the group selection controversy. Advances in the Study of Behaviour 23: 101–133.

Eberhard WG (1990) Evolution in bacterial plasmids and levels of selection. Quarterly Review of Biology 65: 3–22.

Levin BR and Kilmer WL (1974) Interdemic selection and the evolution of altruism: a computer simulation. Evolution 28: 527–545.

Lewontin RC (1970) The units of selection. Quarterly Review of Biology 1: 1–18.

Maynard Smith J (1964) Group selection and kin selection. Nature 201: 1145–1146.

Seeley T (1995) The Wisdom of the Hive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wade MJ (1978) A critical review of the models of group selection. Quarterly Review of Biology 53: 101–114.

Williams G (1966) Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wilson DS and Sober E (1994) Re‐introducing group selection to the human behavioral sciences. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17: 585–654.

Wynne‐Edwards VC (1962) Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behavior. Edinburgh, UK: Oliver & Boyd.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Dugatkin, Lee Alan(Jul 2006) Group Selection. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0005447]