University of Oulu

Pernu, T.K., Helanterä, H. Genetic relatedness and its causal role in the evolution of insect societies. J Biosci 44, 107 (2019).

Genetic relatedness and its causal role in the evolution of insect societies

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Author: Pernu, Tuomas K.1,2,3; Helanterä, Heikki4,5
Organizations: 1Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 4, 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, London, UK
3Molecular and Integrative Biosciences Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
4Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
5Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-01-28


The role of genetic relatedness in social evolution has recently come under critical attention. These arguments are here critically analyzed, both theoretically and empirically. It is argued that when the conceptual structure of the theory of natural selection is carefully taken into account, genetic relatedness can be seen to play an indispensable role in the evolution of both facultative and advanced eusociality. Although reviewing the empirical evidence concerning the evolution of eusociality reveals that relatedness does not play a role in the initial appearance of helper phenotypes, this follows simply from the fact that natural — of which relatedness is a necessary component — does not play a causal role in the origin of any traits. Further, separating two logically distinct elements of causal explanation — necessity and sufficiency — explains why the debate lingers on: although relatedness plays a necessary role in the evolution of helping and advanced eusociality, relatedness alone is not sufficient for their appearance. Therefore, if the relatedness variable in a given data set is held at a uniformly high value, then it indeed may turn out that other factors occupy a more prominent role. However, this does not change the fact that high relatedness functions as a necessary background condition for the evolution of advanced eusociality.

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Series: Journal of biosciences
ISSN: 0250-5991
ISSN-E: 0973-7138
ISSN-L: 0250-5991
Volume: 44
Issue: 4
Article number: UNSP 107
DOI: 10.1007/s12038-019-9894-2
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1184 Genetics, developmental biology, physiology
Funding: This work has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland (grants #140990, #135970, #251337 and #284666) (HH), the Ella & Georg Ehrnrooth foundation (HH and TKP), the Emil Aaltonen Foundation (TKP), the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters (TKP), Kone Foundation (HH and TKP) and the Waldemar von Frenckell Foundation (TKP).
Copyright information: © Indian Academy of Sciences.