Tom Getty and 136 colleagues have published a Brief Communication Arising in Nature that clarifies the role of inclusive fitness theory in guiding our understanding of the evolution of social behavior (Abbot, P. et al. 2011). Most biologists think that fundamental questions about the evolution of altruism were settled by W.D. Hamilton’s formal development of the concepts of kin selection and inclusive fitness. A recent Comment in Nature (Oksaha, S. 2010. Nature 467, 653-655) explains why some biologists continue to question the importance of kin selection in the evolution of social interactions. The root of the problem is that there are different ways to conceptualize and model the evolution of social interactions and many of us do not fully understand and appreciate the alternatives to our favorite approach. Getty and colleagues clarify the conceptual issues and use examples to illustrate how the inclusive fitness approach has helped to predict and explain otherwise baffling phenomena, including the evolution of eusociality.
Tom Getty is a professor at MSU in the Department of Zoology and at the Kellogg Biological Station. He is currently working on two BEACON research projects focused on sexual selection and the evolution of biodiversity, and on three BEACON education projects at the K-12 and undergrad levels.