Sociobiology, or the study of social behavior, has challenged the limits of evolutionary theory since Darwin described the non-reproducing castes among social insects (i.e., eusociality) as “one special difficulty.” Inclusive fitness theory and Hamilton’s rule–that an altruistic act can evolve where the benefit to related individuals exceeds the cost to the actor–potentially resolves Darwin’s paradox. Nevertheless, explanations including delayed fitness benefits and ecological constraints have been suggested as alternatives to inclusive fitness theory. Moreover, the theoretical justification for inclusive fitness theory has recently been vigorously challenged. This course will use readings from the primary literature to examine the evidence for inclusive fitness as a potential explanation for topics including the evolution of helping behavior, eusociality and its relationship to extraordinary sex ratios, and spiteful behavior. Other topics that we will cover include the evolution of deceit and self deception.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on five (4-5-page) papers; tutorial presentations, & the student's effectiveness as a critic
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: BIOL 202 and either BIOL/ENVI 203 or 204 or 302 or 305 or permission of instructor; open to juniors and seniors
Enrollment Preferences: senior Biology majors who have not taken a 400-level course
Unit Notes: Satisfies distribution requirement in the major
Distributions: Division III Writing Skills