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Evolution. 2006 Jun;60(6):1137-51.

Population demography and the evolution of helping behaviors.

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Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EH, United Kingdom.


Limited dispersal may favor the evolution of helping behaviors between relatives as it increases their relatedness, and it may inhibit such evolution as it increases local competition between these relatives. Here, we explore one way out of this dilemma: if the helping behavior allows groups to expand in size, then the kin-competition pressure opposing its evolution can be greatly reduced. We explore the effects of two kinds of stochasticity allowing for such deme expansion. First, we study the evolution of helping under environmental stochasticity that may induce complete patch extinction. Helping evolves if it results in a decrease in the probability of extinction or if it enhances the rate of patch recolonization through propagules formed by fission of nonextinct groups. This mode of dispersal is indeed commonly found in social species. Second, we consider the evolution of helping in the presence of demographic stochasticity. When fecundity is below its value maximizing deme size (undersaturation), helping evolves, but under stringent conditions unless positive density dependence (Allee effect) interferes with demographic stochasticity. When fecundity is above its value maximizing deme size (oversaturation), helping may also evolve, but only if it reduces negative density-dependent competition.

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