, Volume 85, Issue 9, pp 445-449

Mutualistic Benefits Generate an Unequal Distribution of Risky Activities Among Unrelated Group Members

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Recent studies provide a new challenge to the adequacy of theories concerning the evolution of cooperation among nonrelatives: some individuals perform high-risk activities while others do not. We examined a communal hymenopteran species, Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) hemichalceum, to determine why group members engaged in demonstrably risky activities (foraging) tolerate the selfish behavior (remaining in the nest) of unrelated nestmates. Experimental removal of adult females indicated that their presence is required for the protection of brood from ant predators. Nonforagers ensure the continued presence of adults in the nest if the risk-taking foragers die, thereby safeguarding the survival of forager offspring. This results in an unequal distribution of risky activities within social groups in which avoidance of risky activities by some group members is ultimately beneficial to risk takers.

Received: 10 June 1997 / Accepted in revised form: 25 May 1998