Evolution of manipulated behavior

Am Nat. 2013 Oct;182(4):439-51. doi: 10.1086/671932. Epub 2013 Aug 20.


Many social behaviors are triggered by social partners. For example, cells in a multicellular organism often become soma via extrinsically regulated differentiation, while individuals in a eusocial colony often become helpers via extrinsic caste determination. One explanation for social triggering is that it informs when it is beneficial to express the behavior. Alternatively, social triggering can represent manipulation where social partners partially or completely control the focal individual's behavior. For instance, caste determination in primitively eusocial taxa is typically accomplished via differential feeding or dominance hierarchies, suggesting some manipulation. However, selection would favor resistance if manipulation is detrimental to manipulated parties, and the outcome of the manipulation conflict remains intricate. We analyze the coevolution of manipulation and resistance in a simple but general setting. We show that, despite possible resistance, manipulated behavior can be established under less stringent conditions than spontaneous (i.e., nonmanipulated) behavior because of resistance costs. The existence of this advantage might explain why primitive eusocial behavior tends to be triggered socially and coercively. We provide a simple condition for the advantage of manipulated behavior that may help infer whether a socially triggered behavior is manipulated. We illustrate our analysis with a hypothetical example of maternal manipulation relevant to primitive eusociality.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Helping Behavior
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Social Behavior