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Mom was right: Nice guys don't always finish last
Date:11/5/2009

serve the advantage of prudence," he said. "This does not accurately reflect what occurs in natural populations. But given a choice, females look for a way to get away from persistent males. If you allow individuals to self-organize, females find these nice guys and group around them, changing the landscape of competition."

Eldakar and his colleagues have shown through previous studies that groups in which a more gentlemanly approach to mating prevails do better on the whole, even though jerks generally outperform the nice guys when they have to compete one-on-one.

Eldakar thought of the insects as "nice guys" vs. "jerks;" his adviser, David Sloan Wilson, a co-author of the paper and a distinguished professor of biological sciences at Binghamton, termed them "gentlemen" vs. "psychopaths."

"The presence of psychopaths dramatically reduced the productivity of the population," Wilson said. "When all the males were gentlemen, the females laid about three times more eggs than they did when all the males were psychopaths. And yet within each group the psychopaths were doing better than the gentlemen. How do the gentlemen persist if they're disadvantaged within the group?"

Once the females could move between groups, the researchers had their answer. Eldakar and Michael J. Dlugos, then also a Binghamton graduate student, devised a wading pool equipped with special doors that could restrict movement between groups or allow the insects to move freely.

"When they opened the doors, the females would leave whenever a psychopath came around," Wilson said. "The whole thing resulted in a heterogeneity in which the females were clustered with the gentlemen. It's the movement of individuals that creates these differences between groups that favor nonaggressive males."


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Contact: Gail Glover
gglover@binghamton.edu
607-777-2174
Binghamton University
Source:Eurekalert

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