Evol Ecol Res 10: 1077-1086 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Suicidal altruism under random assortment

Gregory B. Pollock1 and Antonio Cabrales2

1KALX, LLC, USA and  2Department of Economics, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Correspondence: suzuki.court@live.com

ABSTRACT

Questions: Can there be a selective explanation for suicide? Or are all suicides evolutionary mistakes, ever pruned by natural selection to the extent that the tendency to perform them is heritable?

Model: A simple variant of trait group selection (where a population is divided into mutually exclusive groups, with the direct effects of behaviour limited to group-mates), employing predators as the mechanism underlying group selection. Predators evaluate groups to avoid potentially suicidal defenders (which, when present, limit a predator’s net return), thus acting as a group selection mechanism favouring groups with potentially suicidal altruists.

Conclusion: The model supports contingent strong altruism (depressing one’s direct reproduction – absolute fitness – to aid others) without kin assortment. Even an extreme contingent suicidal type (destroying self for the sake of others) may either saturate a population or be polymorphic with a type avoiding such altruism. The model does not, however, support a sterile worker caste, where sterility occurs before life-history events associated with effective altruism; under random assortment, reproductive suicide must remain contingent or facultative.

Keywords: contingent strong altruism, correlated strategy, predation, random assortment, suicidal altruism, trait group selection, weak altruism.

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