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J Theor Biol. 1994 Oct 21;170(4):393-400.

Genetics of mutualism: the evolution of altruism between species.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92717.


Conditions are analyzed under which natural selection favors an individual to help another species at a cost to its own reproduction. Traditional models for the evolution of altruism between species focus on the genetic relatedness between the original donor and the recipients of return benefits from the mutualistic partner species. A more general model is analyzed here that focuses on the synergistic effects between partner species caused by genetic variability. The model shows that the spread of altruism is enhanced by spatial correlations between species in the genetic tendency to give aid to partners. These spatial correlations between species are similar to the kin selection coefficients of relatedness that determine the course of social evolution within species. The model also shows that natural selection and ecological dynamics can create genetic correlations between neighbors of different species, even when the initial spatial distributions of the species are uncorrelated. Genetic correlations between species may play an important role in the origin and maintenance of altruism between species.

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