Journal of Ethology

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 139–150 | Cite as

Kin selection and reproductive value in social mammals

  • Masaru Hasegawa
  • Nobuyuki KutsukakeEmail author


Empirical studies have tested and confirmed a positive relationship between relatedness and the degree of altruistic behavior, as predicted by kin selection theory. In contrast, researchers have studied the relationship between reproductive value—the extent to which an individual of a given “state” contributes to future generations—and the degree of altruistic behavior far less frequently, although reproductive value should be considered when testing kin selection. Here, we reviewed empirical studies examining such relationships in social mammals. Overall, > 50% of these studies demonstrated that the degree of altruistic behavior (1) decreases with the reproductive value of the actor, and (2) increases with the reproductive value of the recipient, supporting the importance of reproductive value in altruistic behavior. However, these studies cannot rule out all other explanations than kin selection. Few empirical studies have adopted a stronger test that uses the product of relatedness and reproductive value (i.e., their two-way interaction in a linear model). Such tests should be particularly useful when studying long-lived vertebrates, for which the direct estimation of fitness benefits and costs is impractical. To achieve a better understanding of the evolution of kin-directed behaviors, future studies should use the product of relatedness and reproductive value.


Altruism Kin selection Kinship Social behavior Reproductive value 



This study was financially supported by MEXT (#25711025 to NK). We are grateful to the members of the laboratory of Sokendai (the Graduate University for Advanced Studies). We also thank Michael Griesser, Fumiaki Nomano, Joe Yuichiro Wakano, and anonymous reviewers for critical comments. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 217 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary Studies of BiosystemsSokendai (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)HayamaJapan

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