Altruism

Sigmund K & Hauert C (2002). Altruism. Current Biology 12 (8): R270-R272. DOI:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)00797-2.

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Abstract

Altruistic actions are generally seen as 'noble'. Yet some 'lowly' organisms are apt to match the most heroic human acts of devotion and self-sacrifice. To use a widely-quoted example, consider Dicrocoelium dendriticum, also known as brainworm. These parasites spend some of their stages in the innards of cows, exit in the feces and, in the form of cercaria, are eaten by ants a few stages later. Once ingested, a gang of cercaria will break through the ant's stomach wall. One of them makes it to the brain of the ant, and causes it to climb on the tips of grass blades, thus exposing itself to be taken up by the grazing cattle. The other cercaria form cysts in the ant's body, ready to pursue their lifecycle within the cow that swallows them. But the one who made it to the the brainworm dies without leaving offspring. It has effectively sacrificed itself for the survival of its gang. In humans, comparable feats would be the stuff of epic poetry...

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Adaptive Dynamics Network (ADN)
Bibliographic Reference: Current Biology; 12(8):R270-R272 (16 April 2002)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:14
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2016 11:56
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/6536

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