Does kin recognition promote cooperation?

Gonçalo Faria

October 1, 2019, 12:45–13:45


Room MS 003

IAST Lunch Seminar


Genetic relatedness is a key driver of the evolution of cooperation. One mechanism that may ensure social partners are genetically related is kin recognition, in which individuals are able to distinguish their kin from non-kin and adjust their behaviour accordingly. However, it is not clear kin recognition should affect the overall level of cooperation. Specifically, whilst kin recognition would allow an individual to help more-related social partners over less-related social partners, it is unclear how the population average level of cooperation that is evolutionarily favoured should differ under kin recognition versus indiscriminate social behaviour. Here, we integrate the possibility for kin recognition into a general mathematical analysis in order to assess whether, when, and in which direction kin recognition changes the average level of cooperation in an evolving population. We find that kin recognition may increase, decrease or leave unchanged the average level of cooperation, depending upon whether the marginal inclusive fitness effect of cooperation is a concave, convex or linear function of genetic relatedness. We then use the classic “tragedy of the commons” model of cooperation to illustrate our results. Our analysis provides a method to guide future research on the evolutionary consequences of lifting the veil of ignorance during social interactions.