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Nature. 2001 Jan 25;409(6819):510-3.

Testing Hamilton's rule with competition between relatives.

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  • 1Institute of Cell, Animal & Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK.


Hamilton's theory of kin selection suggests that individuals should show less aggression, and more altruism, towards closer kin. Recent theoretical work has, however, suggested that competition between relatives can counteract kin selection for altruism. Unfortunately, factors that tend to increase the average relatedness of interacting individuals--such as limited dispersal--also tend to increase the amount of competition between relatives. Therefore, in most natural systems, the conflicting influences of increased competition and increased relatedness are confounded, limiting attempts to test theory. Fig wasp taxa exhibit varying levels of aggression among non-dispersing males that show a range of average relatedness levels. Thus, across species, the effects of relatedness and competition between relatives can be separated. Here we report that--contrary to Hamilton's original prediction but in agreement with recent theory--the level of fighting between males shows no correlation with the estimated relatedness of interacting males, but is negatively correlated with future mating opportunities.

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