Journal of Biosciences 44:107 (2019)

Tuomas K. Pernu
King's College London
The role of genetic relatedness in social evolution has recently come under critical attention. These arguments are here critically analyzed, both theoretically and empirically. It is argued that when the conceptual structure of the theory of natural selection is carefully taken into account, genetic relatedness can be seen to play an indispensable role in the evolution of both facultative and advanced eusociality. Although reviewing the empirical evidence concerning the evolution of eusociality reveals that relatedness does not play a role in the initial appearance of helper phenotypes, this follows simply from the fact that natural selection – of which relatedness is a necessary component – does not play a causal role in the origin of any traits. Further, separating two logically distinct elements of causal explanation – necessity and sufficiency – explains why the debate lingers on: although relatedness plays a necessary role in the evolution of helping and advanced eusociality, relatedness alone is not sufficient for their appearance. Therefore, if the relatedness variable in a given data set is held at a uniformly high value, then it indeed may turn out that other factors occupy a more prominent role. However, this does not change the fact that high relatedness functions as a necessary background condition for the evolution of advanced eusociality.
Keywords behavioral ecology  causal explanation  causal necessity  causal sufficiency  causation  group selection  inclusive fitness  kin selection  levels of selection  models  natural selection
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