Geometry for the selfish herd

  • Hamilton W
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This paper presents an antithesis to the view that gregarious behaviour is evolved through benefits to the population or species. Following Galton (1871) and Williams (1964) gregarious behaviour is considered as a form of cover-seeking in which each animal tries to reduce its chance of being caught by a predator. It is easy to see how pruning of marginal individuals can maintain centripetal instincts in already gregarious species; some evidence that marginal pruning actually occurs is summarized. Besides this, simply defined models are used to show that even in non-gregarious species selection is likely to favour individuals who stay close to others. Although not universal or unipotent, cover-seeking is a widespread and important element in animal aggregation, as the literature shows. Neglect of the idea has probably followed from a general disbelief that evolution can be dysgenic for a species. Nevertheless, selection theory provides no support for such disbelief in the case of species with outbreeding or unsubdivided populations. The model for two dimensions involves a complex problem in geometrical probability which has relevance also in metallurgy and communication science. Some empirical data on this, gathered from random number plots, is presented as of possible heuristic value. © 1971.

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  • W. D. Hamilton

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