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Am Nat. 2007 Aug;170(2):E26-46. Epub 2007 Jun 15.

From infanticide to parental care: why spatial structure can help adults be good parents.

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Ecole Normale Supérieure, Unité Mixte de Recherche (UMR) 7625 Fonctionnement et Evolution des Systèmes Ecologiques, Paris F-75005, France.


We investigate the evolution of parental care and cannibalism in a spatially structured population where adults can either help or kill juveniles in their neighborhood. We show that spatial structure can reverse the selective pressures on adult behavior, leading to the evolution of parental care, whereas the nonspatial model predicts that cannibalism is the sole evolutionary outcome. Our analysis emphasizes that evolution of such spatially structured populations is best understood at the level of the cluster of invading mutants, and we define invasion fitness as the growth rate of that cluster. We derive an analytical expression for the selective pressures on the trait and show that relatedness and Hamilton's rule are recovered as emergent properties of the spatial ecological dynamics. When adults can also help other adults, the benefits to each class of recipients are weighted by the class reproductive value, a result consistent with that of other models of kin selection. Finally, we advocate a different approach to moment equations and argue that even though the development of moment closure approximations is a necessary line of research, much-needed ecological and evolutionary insight can be gained by studying the unclosed moment equations.

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