New paper shows that Nowak et al. were wrong: kin selection remains a valuable concept in evolutionary biology

Why Evolution Is True

In 2010 three authors—Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and E. O. Wilson—published a paper in Nature (reference and link below) purporting to explain the evolution of eusociality in insects: the phenomenon whereby a colony contains different “castes” that perform different tasks, and at least one caste is sterile.  In bees, for example, there is usually a single fertile queen, who produces all the offspring, a bunch of sterile working females (“workers”) who defend the nest and tend the brood, and fertile male “drones” who do basically nothing but compete to mate with the next generation of queens. Nonreproductive castes are general (though not ubiquitious) in the Hymenoptera (ants and wasps), as well as in some other animals like termites (Isoptera) and naked mole rats.

It’s hard to understand how it could be advantageous for some individuals to evolve sterility, which, of course, seems patently maladaptive. Darwin was the first to notice this problem. At any…

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About marksolock

I am a lawyer in Chicago with interests in pop culture and current politics.
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