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Biol Lett. 2013 Oct 16;9(6):20130335. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0335. Print 2013.

Hamiltonian inclusive fitness: a fitter fitness concept.

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Highlands Biological Station, , 265 North Sixth Street, Highlands, NC 28741, USA.


In 1963-1964 W. D. Hamilton introduced the concept of inclusive fitness, the only significant elaboration of Darwinian fitness since the nineteenth century. I discuss the origin of the modern fitness concept, providing context for Hamilton's discovery of inclusive fitness in relation to the puzzle of altruism. While fitness conceptually originates with Darwin, the term itself stems from Spencer and crystallized quantitatively in the early twentieth century. Hamiltonian inclusive fitness, with Price's reformulation, provided the solution to Darwin's 'special difficulty'-the evolution of caste polymorphism and sterility in social insects. Hamilton further explored the roles of inclusive fitness and reciprocation to tackle Darwin's other difficulty, the evolution of human altruism. The heuristically powerful inclusive fitness concept ramified over the past 50 years: the number and diversity of 'offspring ideas' that it has engendered render it a fitter fitness concept, one that Darwin would have appreciated.


Darwinian fitness; Hamilton's rule; altruism; inclusive fitness; kin selection; social evolution

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