Capturing the superorganism: a formal theory of group adaptation

Andy Gardner, A. Grafen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adaptation is conventionally regarded as occurring at the level of the individual organism. However, in recent years there has been a revival of interest in the possibility for group adaptations and superorganisms. Here, we provide the first formal theory of group adaptation. In particular: (1) we clarify the distinction between group selection and group adaptation, framing the former in terms of gene frequency change and the latter in terms of optimization; (2) we capture the superorganism in the form of a 'group as maximizing agent' analogy that links an optimization program to a model of a group-structured population; (3) we demonstrate that between-group selection can lead to group adaptation, but only in rather special circumstances; (4) we provide formal support for the view that between-group selection is the best definition for 'group selection'; and (5) we reveal that mechanisms of conflict resolution such as policing cannot be regarded as group adaptations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-671
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009

Keywords

  • formal Darwinism
  • group as maximizing agent
  • group selection
  • inclusive fitness
  • individuality
  • kin selection
  • levels of selection
  • major transitions
  • natural selection
  • Price equation
  • GROUP SELECTION
  • INCLUSIVE FITNESS
  • KIN SELECTION
  • REPRODUCTIVE VALUE
  • SOCIAL SEMANTICS
  • INSECT SOCIETIES
  • PRICE EQUATION
  • SOFT SELECTION
  • HARD SELECTION
  • EVOLUTION

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