Higher disease prevalence can induce greater sociality: a game theoretic coevolutionary model

Evolution. 2005 Sep;59(9):1859-66.


There is growing evidence that communicable diseases constitute a strong selective force on the evolution of social systems. It has been suggested that infectious diseases may determine upper limits of host sociality by, for example, inducing territoriality or early juvenile dispersal. Here we use game theory to model the evolution of host sociality in the context of communicable diseases. Our model is then augmented with the evolution of virulence to determine coevolutionarily stable strategies of host sociality and pathogen virulence. In contrast to a controversial hypothesis by Ewald (1994), our analysis indicates that pathogens may become more virulent when contact rates are low, and their prevalence can ultimately induce greater sociality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Game Theory
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Prevalence*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Virulence