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Sex-biased dispersal, haplodiploidy and the evolution of helping in social insects

By Rufus A. Johnstone, Michael A. Cant and Jeremy Field


In his famous haplodiploidy hypothesis, W. D. Hamilton proposed that high sistersister relatedness facilitates the evolution of kin-selected reproductive altruism among Hymenopteran females. Subsequent analyses, however, suggested that haplodiploidy cannot promote altruism unless altruists capitalize on relatedness asymmetries by helping to raise offspring whose sex ratio is more female-biased than the population at large. Here, we show that haplodiploidy is in fact more favourable than is diploidy to the evolution of reproductive altruism on the part of females, provided only that dispersal is male-biased (no sex-ratio bias or active kin discrimination is required). The effect is strong, and applies to the evolution both of sterile female helpers and of helping among breeding females. Moreover, a review of existing data suggests that female philopatry and non-local mating are widespread among nest-building Hymenoptera. We thus conclude that Hamilton was correct in his claim that 'family relationships in the Hymenoptera are potentially very favourable to the evolution of reproductive altruism'

Topics: Q
Publisher: Royal Society, The
Year: 2011
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