Faculty Publications


A test of two skew models to explain cooperative breeding.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Deby L. Cassill

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

January 2007


Two competing models, reproductive skew and skew selection, have been constructed to explain the evolution of cooperation among unrelated breeders. Reproductive skew is a trade-off model that assumes breeding occurs under scarce resource conditions. One breeder gains units of fecundity at the expense of other breeders during aggressive, altruistic or tug-of-war transactions. After joining, the distribution of fecundity among breeders shifts from symmetrical to asymmetrical. In contrast, skew selection is a surplus model that assumes breeding occurs during a springtime glut. Skew selection assumes that fecundity among breeders is initially asymmetrical and that joining reduces the asymmetry of fecundity. This paper reports findings from a breeding experiment on the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, which supported skew selection rather than reproductive skew. Joining was a win-win strategy for alpha and beta breeders; beta breeders gained within-group survival benefits; alpha breeders gained between-group survival benefits. In summary, skew selection extends Darwin's theory of natural selection by revealing the self-interested core of cooperative breeding.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Journal of Bioeconomics, 9,19-37. doi: 10.1007/s10818-007-9012-7 Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Springer Verlag