Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 80–99

Eusociality in History


DOI: 10.1007/s12110-013-9186-8

Cite this article as:
Betzig, L. Hum Nat (2014) 25: 80. doi:10.1007/s12110-013-9186-8


For more than 100,000 years, H. sapiens lived as foragers, in small family groups with low reproductive variance. A minority of men were able to father children by two or three women; and a majority of men and women were able to breed. But after the origin of farming around 10,000 years ago, reproductive variance increased. In civilizations which began in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China, and then moved on to Greece and Rome, kings collected thousands of women, whose children were supported and guarded by thousands of eunuchs. Just a few hundred years ago, that trend reversed. Obligate sterility ended, and reproductive variance declined. For H. sapiens, as for other organisms, eusociality seems to be an effect of ecological constraints. Civilizations rose up in lake and river valleys, hemmed in by mountains and deserts. Egalitarianism became an option after empty habitats opened up.


EusocialityCooperative breedingReproductive varianceReproductive suppression

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

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  1. 1.