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Egalitarian revolution in the Pleistocene?
Date:10/3/2008

natural selection landscape. Instead of traditional "hostile forces of nature", the competitive interactions among members of the same group became the most dominant evolutionary factor. According to this still controversial view, known as the "social brain" or "Machiavellian intelligence" hypothesis, more intelligent individuals were able to take advantage of other members of their group, achieve higher social status, and leave more offspring who inherited their parent's genes for larger brain size and intelligence. As a result of this runaway process, the average brain size and intelligenc e were increasing across the whole human lineage.

Also increasing were the abilities to keep track of within-group social interactions, to remember friends and their allies and enemies, and to attract and use allies. At some point, physically weaker members of the group started forming successful and stable large coalitions against strong individuals who otherwise would achieve alpha-status and usurp the majority of the crucial resources. Eventually, an egalitarian society was established. Although some of its components are well supported by data, this scenario remains highly controversial. One reason is its complexity which makes it difficult to interpret the data and to intuit the consequences of interactions between multiple evolutionary, ecological, behavioral, and social factors acting simultaneously. It is also tricky to evaluate relevant time-scales and figure out possible evolutionary dynamics.

A paper published in PLoS ONE today makes steps towards answering these challenges. The paper is co-authored by Sergey Gavrilets, a theoretical evolutionary biologist, and two computer scientists, Edgar Duenez-Guzman and Michael Vose, all from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The researchers built a complex mathematical model describing the process of alliance formation which they then studied using analytical methods and large-scale num
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Contact: Sergey Gavrilets
gavrila@tiem.utk.edu
Public Library of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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