Altruism varies under different conditionsMay 1st, 2012 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, May 1 (IANS) Altruism wears different hats under different circumstances, says a new math model that pinpoints the conditions favouring one form of altruism over another.
The model predicts that creatures will help each other in different ways depending on whether key resources such as food and habitat are scarce or abundant, say researchers.
Examples of creatures caring for others at the expense of themselves are well-known. Ants, bees, and some birds will help their relatives raise kids rather than raise kids of their own.
Even the simplest of social creatures, such as single-celled bacteria and slime moulds and other microbes, sometimes sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of their group.
Most math models of how cooperation comes to be assume that all forms of altruism provide similar perks. But the benefits of altruism are different for different behaviours, said study author Michael Wade, professor at Indiana University and visiting scholar at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre (NESC), Durham, North Carolina.
For example, some creatures cooperate for the sake of defence, others to find food, and yet others to care for young, he explained, according to an Indiana and NESC statement.
Wade and collaborator J. David Van Dyken of Indiana show that when key local resources such as food or habitat are scarce, altruistic behaviours that provide more of those resources, or that use them more efficiently, will be favoured.
Think of lions banding together to hunt and take down prey, or honey bees sharing their findings as they forage for food. Many animals guide other members of their group to newly discovered meals, or bring food back to share with their nest mates.
But when resources are abundant, altruistic behaviours that help other individuals live longer, or produce more offspring, will give organisms an edge. Animals such as songbirds, ungulates and chimpanzees, for example, make alarm calls to warn nearby group members of approaching predators, braving danger to protect others.
“But the bottom line is that the way creatures are likely to help each other when times are tight is different from how they’re likely to help each other in times of plenty,” Wade said.
- Grey matter size linked to altruism, says study - Jul 12, 2012
- How we become altruistic - Sep 22, 2010
- Nice guys actually get the girl in the end - Oct 14, 2010
- New technique could help explain why bee populations are declining - Mar 22, 2011
- 'Selfless' fairy wrens are in fact carefully calculating accountants - Mar 19, 2011
- Humans walked upright to carry scarce resources - Mar 25, 2012
- Babies can sense your unfair play with them - Oct 08, 2011
- Dogs aren't the only best friends of man - Jan 04, 2011
- Bee swarms make decisions like humans - Dec 11, 2011
- Why humans actively help each other - May 04, 2011
- Honeybees may have evolved to be 'cleverer' in the morning - Aug 08, 2010
- Plants co-exist with siblings, but won't tolerate strangers - Nov 17, 2009
- 'Rework climate change models to save snails' - Feb 08, 2012
- Slime may help solve traffic problems - Jan 22, 2010
- Bacteria too can sniff out smelly chemicals - Aug 16, 2010
Tags: altruism, author michael, behaviours, chimpanzees, collaborator, durham north carolina, evolutionary synthesis, honey bees, key resources, math model, math models, michael wade, nesc, new math, slime moulds, social creatures, study author, ungulates, van dyken, visiting scholar