Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 331-341

First online:

Can altruism evolve in purely viscous populations?

  • D. S. WilsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, State University of New York
  • , G. B. PollockAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Arizona State University
  • , L. A. DugatkinAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Kentucky

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Limited dispersal is often thought to facilitate the evolution of altruism by increasing the degree of relatedness among interacting individuals. Limited dispersal can have additional effects, however, such as local population regulation, that inhibits the evolution of altruism. Many models of structured populations assume that a viscous stage of the life cycle alternates with a global mixing stage, which allows the advantages of interactions among close relatives without the disadvantages of local population regulation. Here we analyse a computer simulation model of ‘pure’ population viscosity, in which offspring are always deposited close to parents and no global mixing stage exists. As expected, limited dispersal generates a high coefficient of relatedness among interacting individuals. Patches of altruists, however, are unable to ‘export’ their productivity to other regions of the landscape and are easily invaded by selfish types from neighbouring patches. Unlike models of alternating viscosity, in which high relatedness and local population regulation can be decoupled, these two opposing effects are inextricably linked in purely viscous populations, which therefore are not conducive to the evolution of altruistic traits.


altruism selection inclusion fitness group selection population viscosity