Transmission of social status drives cooperation and offspring philopatry

Antonio Rodrigues*, Andy Gardner

*Corresponding author for this work

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The evolution of cooperation depends on two crucial overarching factors: relatedness, which describes the extent to which the recipient shares genes in common with the actor; and quality, which describes the recipient's basic capacity to transmit genes into the future. While most research has focused on relatedness, there is a growing interest in understanding how quality modulates the evolution of cooperation. However, the impact of inheritance of quality on the evolution of cooperation remains largely unexplored, especially in spatially structured populations. Here, we develop a mathematical model to understand how inheritance of quality, in the form of social status, influences the evolution of helping and harming within social groups in a viscous-population setting. We find that: (1) status-reversal transmission, whereby parental and offspring status are negatively correlated, strongly inhibits the evolution of cooperation, with low-status individuals investing less in cooperation and high-status individuals being more prone to harm; (2) transmission of high status promotes offspring philopatry, with more cooperation being directed towards the higher-dispersal social class; and (3) fertility inequality and inter-generational status inheritance reduce within-group conflict. Overall, our study highlights the importance of considering different mechanisms of phenotypic inheritance, including social support, and their potential interactions in shaping animal societies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20231314
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Issue number2011
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023


  • Kin competition
  • Kin selection
  • Non-genetic inheritance
  • Reproductive value
  • Major transitions


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