Navigation Links
Helping in a selfish world

Billions of people tuned into recent Live 8 concert broadcasts, some just for the music, others to support the altruistic cause spearheaded by former Boomtown Rat, Sir Bob Geldof. In today's rat-race climate, what makes some of us look out for each other, while others look out for themselves?

According to evolutionary theory, natural selection has designed individuals to behave selfishishly; selfish individuals are likely to end up with more resources and therefore more offspring. But many species (including humans, some rock musicians, politicians, and everyday citizens among them) do co-operate.

Traditionally, scientists have explained the evolution of co-operation using the idea of kin selection. Help to relatives (who share your genes) makes sense if it means your relative will have more children who will carry your genes into the next generation. Therefore, relatives are expected to help more. However, in a study published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, McMaster University researchers show that in certain situations the reverse is true: unrelated individuals help more.

Sigal Balshine, associate professor of in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster and her graduate student Kelly Stiver have been studying a small species of African cichlid fish that live in groups with a dominant breeding pair and non-breeding helpers. All individuals (helpers and breeders) co-operate to defend the young and the territory. The researchers combined behavioural observations with genetic analyses of relatedness in these fish groups and found that under specific ecological and demographic conditions unrelated individuals must "pay-to-stay" in the group and therefore may help more.

"This fish species is particularly interesting because breeders and helpers are not close relatives, but they co-operate nevertheless," says Balshine. "We think that unrelated individuals may be required to "pay more" by doing m ore work than related individuals in order to be allowed access and enjoy the benefits of being part of a group."

Using a combination of laboratory experiments and underwater field observations in Lake Tanganyika (Zambia), Stiver and Balshine examined how the help provided to breeders varied by how related the helpers were to the breeders. "While some helpers work or care for young because they are related to the dominant breeders, we also observed that other unrelated helpers work as a kind of rent payment," says Stiver.

Like in a commune or a kibbutz where non-relatives work together to achieve a common goal, these helper fish donate their time and energy to the group in exchange for the safety of living within the group. In a sense, these tiny African fish take a larger than usual worldview, and continued studies of co-operation in this species and other animals may shed light on the factors promoting co-operation in our own species.

The paper is available online at

McMaster University, named Canada's Research University of the Year by Research InfoSource, has world-renowned faculty and state-of-the-art research facilities. McMaster's culture of innovation fosters a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University has a student population of more than 23,000 and more than 112,000 alumni in 128 countries.


Source:McMaster University

Related biology news :

1. Researchers Closer To Helping Hearing-Impaired Using Stem Cells
2. Harnessing microbes, one by one, to build a better nanoworld
3. Scientists must offer solutions for conserving tropical forests in a rapidly changing world
4. HIV drug resistance increasing in UK and among highest in the world
5. Mapping the protein world
6. Too mellow for our predatory world
7. Replacing insulin is top-ranked breakthrough foreseen for health in developing world
8. Fantastic Voyage: A new nanoscale view of the biological world
9. Unique gene regulation gives chilly bugs survival advantage at bottom of the world
Post Your Comments:

(Date:11/12/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 11, 2015   ... and reliable analytical tools has been paving the ... and qualitative determination of discrete analytes in clinical, ... sensors are being predominantly used in medical applications, ... and environmental sectors due to continuous emphasis on ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... , Nov. 09, 2015 ... addition of the "Global Law Enforcement ... offering. --> ) has ... Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report ... and Markets ( ) has announced ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions ... the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to ... High Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only three ... the "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards ... who have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... "Company"), affirms that its business and prospects remain ... , Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB ... program to completion following review of the final ... met Phase 2 Primary Endpoint in men with ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) holds the third-largest share ... The trend of outsourcing to low-cost locations is ... volume share for the region in the short ... in the CRO industry will improve. ... ), finds that the market earned revenues ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Copper is an essential ... bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. With a $1.3 million ... (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP and AdVenture Capital brought together dozens ... BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools. , Now, the top ... of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl 50, and an ...
Breaking Biology Technology: