A new theoretical model of parasite virulence linkurl:published;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature08071.html in this week's __Nature__ puts a chink in the armor of group selection theory, the idea that organisms act altruistically for the betterment of groups as a whole.
Image: flickr/polandeze
The study "contributes to this debate that evolutionary biologists really seem to enjoy, which is at what level selection seems to act," linkurl:Geoff Wild,;http://www.apmaths.uwo.ca/~gwild/ a mathematical biologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, who led the study, told __The Scientist__. In the 1960s, group selection became a popular explanation for behaviors where individuals seemed to be acting against their own self-interest, such as nest building in social insects. However, around the same time, theoreticians showed that the same adaptations could equally be explained by considering an organism's "inclusive fitness," which includes the number of offspring sired by relatives in addition to one's own reproductive success. From a gene's-eye view,...

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