Sociobiology is a field of biology that aims to examine and explain social behavior in terms of evolution. It draws from disciplines including ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, and population genetics. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is closely allied to Darwinian anthropology, human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.

Sociobiology investigates social behaviors such as mating patterns, territorial fights, pack hunting, and the hive society of social insects. It argues that just as selection pressure led to animals evolving useful ways of interacting with the natural environment, so also it led to the genetic evolution of advantageous social behavior.

While the term "sociobiology" originated at least as early as the 1940s, the concept did not gain major recognition until the publication of E. O. Wilson's book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. The new field quickly became the subject of controversy. Critics, led by Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, argued that genes played a role in human behavior, but that traits such as aggressiveness could be explained by social environment rather than by biology. Sociobiologists responded by pointing to the complex relationship between nature and nurture.


E. O. Wilson defined sociobiology as "the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organization".[1]

Sociobiology is based on the premise that some behaviors (social and individual) are at least partly inherited and can be affected by natural selection. It begins with the idea that behaviors have evolved over time, similar to the way that physical traits are thought to have evolved. It predicts that animals will act in ways that have proven to be evolutionarily successful over time. This can, among other things, result in the formation of complex social processes conducive to evolutionary fitness.

The discipline seeks to explain behavior as a product of natural selection. Behavior is therefore seen as an effort to preserve one's genes in the population. Inherent in sociobiological reasoning is the idea that certain genes or gene combinations that influence particular behavioral traits can be inherited from generation to generation.[2]

For example, newly dominant male lions often kill cubs in the pride that they did not sire. This behavior is adaptive because killing the cubs eliminates competition for their own offspring and causes the nursing females to come into heat faster, thus allowing more of his genes to enter into the population. Sociobiologists would view this instinctual cub-killing behavior as being inherited through the genes of successfully reproducing male lions, whereas non-killing behavior may have died out as those lions were less successful in reproducing.[3]


Plos wilson
E. O. Wilson, a central figure in the history of sociobiology, from the publication in 1975 of his book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis

The philosopher of biology Daniel Dennett suggested that the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes was the first sociobiologist, arguing that in his 1651 book Leviathan Hobbes had explained the origins of morals in human society from an amoral sociobiological perspective.[4]

The geneticist of animal behavior John Paul Scott coined the word sociobiology at a 1948 conference on genetics and social behaviour which called for a conjoint development of field and laboratory studies in animal behavior research[5][6]. With John Paul Scott's organizational efforts, a "Section of Animal Behavior and Sociobiology" of the ESA was created in 1956, which became a Division of Animal Behavior of the American Society of Zoology in 1958. In 1956, E. O. Wilson came in contact this emerging sociobiology through his PhD student Stuart A. Altmann, who had been in close relation with the participants to the 1948 conference. Altmann developed his own brand of sociobiology to study the social behavior of rhesus macaques, using statistics, and was hired as a "sociobiologist" at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in 1965.[6] Wilson's sociobiology is different from John Paul Scott's or Altmann's, insofar as he drew on mathematical models of social behavior centered on the maximisation of the genetic fitness by W. D. Hamilton, Robert Trivers, John Maynard Smith, and George R. Price. The three sociobiologies by Scott, Altmann and Wilson have in common to place naturalist studies at the core of the research on animal social behavior and by drawing alliances with emerging research methodologies, at a time when "biology in the field" was threatened to be made old-fashioned by "modern" practices of science (laboratory studies, mathematical biology, molecular biology).[7][6]

Once a specialist term, "sociobiology" became widely known in 1975 when Wilson published his book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, which sparked an intense controversy. Since then "sociobiology" has largely been equated with Wilson's vision. The book pioneered and popularized the attempt to explain the evolutionary mechanics behind social behaviors such as altruism, aggression, and nurturance, primarily in ants (Wilson's own research specialty) and other Hymenoptera, but also in other animals. However, the influence of evolution on behavior has been of interest to biologists and philosophers since soon after the discovery of evolution itself. Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, written in the early 1890s, is a popular example. The final chapter of the book is devoted to sociobiological explanations of human behavior, and Wilson later wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book, On Human Nature, that addressed human behavior specifically.[6][8]

Edward H. Hagen writes in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology that sociobiology is, despite the public controversy regarding the applications to humans, "one of the scientific triumphs of the twentieth century." "Sociobiology is now part of the core research and curriculum of virtually all biology departments, and it is a foundation of the work of almost all field biologists" Sociobiological research on nonhuman organisms has increased dramatically and continuously in the world's top scientific journals such as Nature and Science. The more general term behavioral ecology is commonly substituted for the term sociobiology in order to avoid the public controversy.[9]


Sociobiologists maintain that human behavior, as well as nonhuman animal behavior, can be partly explained as the outcome of natural selection. They contend that in order to fully understand behavior, it must be analyzed in terms of evolutionary considerations.

Natural selection is fundamental to evolutionary theory. Variants of hereditary traits which increase an organism's ability to survive and reproduce will be more greatly represented in subsequent generations, i.e., they will be "selected for". Thus, inherited behavioral mechanisms that allowed an organism a greater chance of surviving and/or reproducing in the past are more likely to survive in present organisms. That inherited adaptive behaviors are present in nonhuman animal species has been multiply demonstrated by biologists, and it has become a foundation of evolutionary biology. However, there is continued resistance by some researchers over the application of evolutionary models to humans, particularly from within the social sciences, where culture has long been assumed to be the predominant driver of behavior.

Nikolaas Tinbergen 1978
Nikolaas Tinbergen, whose work influenced sociobiology

Sociobiology is based upon two fundamental premises:

  • Certain behavioral traits are inherited,
  • Inherited behavioral traits have been honed by natural selection. Therefore, these traits were probably "adaptive" in the environment in which the species evolved.

Sociobiology uses Nikolaas Tinbergen's four categories of questions and explanations of animal behavior. Two categories are at the species level; two, at the individual level. The species-level categories (often called "ultimate explanations") are

  • the function (i.e., adaptation) that a behavior serves and
  • the evolutionary process (i.e., phylogeny) that resulted in this functionality.

The individual-level categories (often called "proximate explanations") are

Sociobiologists are interested in how behavior can be explained logically as a result of selective pressures in the history of a species. Thus, they are often interested in instinctive, or intuitive behavior, and in explaining the similarities, rather than the differences, between cultures. For example, mothers within many species of mammals – including humans – are very protective of their offspring. Sociobiologists reason that this protective behavior likely evolved over time because it helped the offspring of the individuals which had the characteristic to survive. This parental protection would increase in frequency in the population. The social behavior is believed to have evolved in a fashion similar to other types of nonbehavioral adaptations, such as a coat of fur, or the sense of smell.

Individual genetic advantage fails to explain certain social behaviors as a result of gene-centred selection. E.O. Wilson argued that evolution may also act upon groups.[10] The mechanisms responsible for group selection employ paradigms and population statistics borrowed from evolutionary game theory. Altruism is defined as "a concern for the welfare of others". If altruism is genetically determined, then altruistic individuals must reproduce their own altruistic genetic traits for altruism to survive, but when altruists lavish their resources on non-altruists at the expense of their own kind, the altruists tend to die out and the others tend to increase. An extreme example is a soldier losing his life trying to help a fellow soldier. This example raises the question of how altruistic genes can be passed on if this soldier dies without having any children.[11]

Within sociobiology, a social behavior is first explained as a sociobiological hypothesis by finding an evolutionarily stable strategy that matches the observed behavior. Stability of a strategy can be difficult to prove, but usually, it will predict gene frequencies. The hypothesis can be supported by establishing a correlation between the gene frequencies predicted by the strategy, and those expressed in a population.

Altruism between social insects and littermates has been explained in such a way. Altruistic behavior, behavior that increases the reproductive fitness of others at the apparent expense of the altruist, in some animals has been correlated to the degree of genome shared between altruistic individuals. A quantitative description of infanticide by male harem-mating animals when the alpha male is displaced as well as rodent female infanticide and fetal resorption are active areas of study. In general, females with more bearing opportunities may value offspring less, and may also arrange bearing opportunities to maximize the food and protection from mates.

An important concept in sociobiology is that temperament traits exist in an ecological balance. Just as an expansion of a sheep population might encourage the expansion of a wolf population, an expansion of altruistic traits within a gene pool may also encourage increasing numbers of individuals with dependent traits.

Studies of human behavior genetics have generally found behavioral traits such as creativity, extroversion, aggressiveness, and IQ have high heritability. The researchers who carry out those studies are careful to point out that heritability does not constrain the influence that environmental or cultural factors may have on those traits.[12][13]

Criminality is actively under study, but extremely controversial. There are arguments that in some environments criminal behavior might be adaptive.[14] The novelist Elias Canetti also has noted applications of sociobiological theory to cultural practices such as slavery and autocracy.[15]

Support for premise

Genetic mouse mutants illustrate the power that genes exert on behaviour. For example, the transcription factor FEV (aka Pet1), through its role in maintaining the serotonergic system in the brain, is required for normal aggressive and anxiety-like behavior.[16] Thus, when FEV is genetically deleted from the mouse genome, male mice will instantly attack other males, whereas their wild-type counterparts take significantly longer to initiate violent behaviour. In addition, FEV has been shown to be required for correct maternal behaviour in mice, such that offspring of mothers without the FEV factor do not survive unless cross-fostered to other wild-type female mice.[17]

A genetic basis for instinctive behavioural traits among non-human species, such as in the above example, is commonly accepted among many biologists; however, attempting to use a genetic basis to explain complex behaviours in human societies has remained extremely controversial.[18][19]


Steven Pinker argues that critics have been overly swayed by politics and a fear of biological determinism,[a] accusing among others Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin of being "radical scientists", whose stance on human nature is influenced by politics rather than science,[21] while Lewontin, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin, who drew a distinction between the politics and history of an idea and its scientific validity,[22] argue that sociobiology fails on scientific grounds. Gould grouped sociobiology with eugenics, criticizing both in his book The Mismeasure of Man.[23]

Noam Chomsky has expressed views on sociobiology on several occasions. During a 1976 meeting of the Sociobiology Study Group, as reported by Ullica Segerstråle, Chomsky argued for the importance of a sociobiologically informed notion of human nature.[24] Chomsky argued that human beings are biological organisms and ought to be studied as such, with his criticism of the "blank slate" doctrine in the social sciences (which would inspire a great deal of Steven Pinker's and others' work in evolutionary psychology), in his 1975 Reflections on Language.[25] Chomsky further hinted at the possible reconciliation of his anarchist political views and sociobiology in a discussion of Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, which focused more on altruism than aggression, suggesting that anarchist societies were feasible because of an innate human tendency to cooperate.[26]

Wilson has claimed that he had never meant to imply what ought to be, only what is the case. However, some critics have argued that the language of sociobiology readily slips from "is" to "ought",[22] an instance of the naturalistic fallacy. Pinker has argued that opposition to stances considered anti-social, such as ethnic nepotism, is based on moral assumptions, meaning that such opposition is not falsifiable by scientific advances.[27] The history of this debate, and others related to it, are covered in detail by Cronin (1993), Segerstråle (2000), and Alcock (2001).

See also


  1. ^ Biological determinism was a right wing philosophy underlying the social Darwinian and eugenics movements of the early 20th century, and controversies in the history of intelligence testing.[20]


  1. ^ Wilson, E. O. (1978). On Human Nature. Harvard. p. x. ISBN 978-0674016385.
  2. ^ Wilson, David Sloan Wilson; Wilson, Edward O. (2007). "Rethinking The Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 82 (4): 327–348. doi:10.1086/522809.
  3. ^ Packer, Craig; Pusey, Anne E. (1983). "Adaptations of Female Lions to Infanticide by Incoming Males" (PDF). Am. Nat. 121 (5): 716–728. doi:10.1086/284097.
  4. ^ Dennett, Daniel (1995). Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Simon and Schuster. pp. 453–454. ISBN 978-0140167344.
  5. ^ "The Life of J.P. Scott". Bowling Green State University. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Levallois, Clement (2018). "The Development of Sociobiology in Relation to Animal Behavior Studies, 1946–1975". Journal of the History of Biology. 51 (3): 419–444. doi:10.1007/s10739-017-9491-x. PMID 28986758.
  7. ^ Dobzhansky, Theodosius (September 1966). "Are Naturalists Old-Fashioned?". The American Naturalist. 100 (915): 541–550. doi:10.1086/282448.
  8. ^ Walsh, Bryan (17 August 2011). "All-TIME 100 Nonfiction Books".
  9. ^ The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by David M. Buss, John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Chapter 5 by Edward H. Hagen
  10. ^ Wilson, 1975. Chapter 5. "Group Selection and Altruism"
  11. ^ Tessman, Irwin (1995). "Human altruism as a courtship display". Forum: 157.
  12. ^ Johnson, Wendy; Turkheimer, E.; Gottesman, Irving; Bouchard, Thomas (2009). "Beyond Heritability: Twin Studies in Behavioral Research" (PDF). Current Directions in Psychological Science. 18 (4): 217–220. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01639.x. PMC 2899491. PMID 20625474. Retrieved 29 June 2010. Moreover, even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability. For example, height is on the order of 90% heritable, yet North and South Koreans, who come from the same genetic background, presently differ in average height by a full 6 inches (Pak, 2004; Schwekendiek, 2008).
  13. ^ Turkheimer, Eric (April 2008). "A Better Way to Use Twins for Developmental Research" (PDF). LIFE Newsletter. 2 (1): 2–5. Retrieved 29 October 2010. But back to the question: What does heritability mean? Almost everyone who has ever thought about heritability has reached a commonsense intuition about it: One way or another, heritability has to be some kind of index of how genetic a trait is. That intuition explains why so many thousands of heritability coefficients have been calculated over the years. . . . Unfortunately, that fundamental intuition is wrong. Heritability isn't an index of how genetic a trait is. A great deal of time has been wasted in the effort of measuring the heritability of traits in the false expectation that somehow the genetic nature of psychological phenomena would be revealed.
  14. ^ The Sociobiology Of Sociopathy: An Integrated Archived 2002-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981, p. 444-445.
  16. ^ Hendricks TJ, Fyodorov DV, Wegman LJ, Lelutiu NB, Pehek EA, Yamamoto B, Silver J, Weeber EJ, Sweatt JD, Deneris ES. Pet-1 ETS gene plays a critical role in 5-HT neuron development and is required for normal anxiety-like and aggressive behaviour]. Neuron. 2003 Jan 23;37(2):233-47
  17. ^ Lerch-Haner, JK; Frierson, D; Crawford, LK; Beck, SG; Deneris, ES (Sep 2008). "Serotonergic transcriptional programming determines maternal behavior and offspring survival". Nat Neurosci. 11 (9): 1001–3. doi:10.1038/nn.2176. PMC 2679641. PMID 19160496.
  18. ^ Fisher, Helen (16 October 1994). "'Wilson,' They Said, 'Your All Wet!'". New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  19. ^ Gould, Stephen Jay (16 November 1978). "Sociobiology: the art of storytelling". New Scientist. 80 (1129): 530–533.
  20. ^ Allen, Garland E. (1984). "The Roots of Biological Determinism: review of The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould". Journal of the History of Biology. 17 (1): 141–145. doi:10.1007/bf00397505. JSTOR 4330882.
  21. ^ Pinker, Steven (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Penguin Books. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-14-200334-3. A surprising number of intellectuals, particularly on the left, do deny that there is such a thing as inborn talent, especially intelligence. Stephen Jay Gould's 191 bestseller The Mismeasure of Man was written to debunk 'the abstraction of intelligence as a single entity ... and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness'
  22. ^ a b Richard Lewontin; Leon Kamin; Steven Rose (1984). Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature. Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-394-50817-7.
  23. ^ Gould, Stephen Jay (1996). The Mismeasure of Man. p. Introduction to the Revised Edition.
  24. ^ Segerstråle 2000, p. 205.
  25. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1975), Reflections on Language:10. New York: Pantheon Books.
  26. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1995). "Rollback, Part II." Z Magazine 8 (Feb.): 20–31.
  27. ^ Pinker, Steven (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Viking. p. 145


  • Alcock, John (2001). The triumph of sociobiology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514383-6.
  • Barkow, Jerome, ed. (2006). Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513002-7.
  • Cronin, Helena (1993). The ant and the peacock: Altruism and sexual selection from Darwin to today. Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-521-45765-1.
  • Etcoff, Nancy (1999). Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-385-47942-4.
  • Kaplan, Gisela; Rogers, Lesley J. (2003). Gene Worship: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate over Genes, Brain, and Gender. Other Press. ISBN 978-1-59051-034-6.
  • Richard M. Lerner (1992). Final Solutions: Biology, Prejudice, and Genocide. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-0-271-00793-9.
  • Levallois, Clement (2017). "The Development of Sociobiology in Relation to Animal Behavior Studies, 1946–1975". Journal of the History of Biology. 51 (3): 419–444. doi:10.1007/s10739-017-9491-x. ISSN 0022-5010. PMID 28986758.
  • Richards, Janet Radcliffe (2000). Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction. London: Routledge.
  • Segerstråle, Ullica (2000). Defenders of the truth: The sociobiology debate. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-286215-0.

External links


Generally alate refers to a winged reproductive caste from a social insect colony in its winged form. Their common behavioural purpose is starting a new colony, to expand their mother colonies etc. Colonies of termites and ants produces alates. Also sycamore seeds are alates. It is a flight-based form of reproductive technique.In a termite colony, alates (winged males and winged females) disperse in a specific period or a month. Male and female pair to each other during flight, shed their wings, start a new colony.

Alate is an adjective that refers to wings or winglike structures. In entomology it usually refers to the winged form of a social insect, especially ants or termites, though can also be applied to aphids and some thrips. Alate females are typically those destined to become gynes (queens), whereas alate males are occasionally referred to as "drones" (or "kings", in the case of termites). However, the existence of reproductives that do not have wings (e.g., ergatoid queens and gamergates) necessitates a term to distinguish the winged from the wingless reproductive forms. This is an example of polymorphism associated with eusociality. A "dealate" is an adult insect that shed or lost its wings ("dealation").

In botany alate refers to winglike structures on some seeds that use wind dispersal or it may be used to describe flattened ridges which run longtitudianally on stems.

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology is a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering quantitative, empirical, and theoretical studies in the field of analysis of animal behavior at the levels of the individual, population, and community.

Biocultural anthropology

Biocultural anthropology can be defined in numerous ways. It is the scientific exploration of the relationships between human biology and culture. "Instead of looking for the underlying biological roots of human behavior, biocultural anthropology attempts to understand how culture affects our biological capacities and limitations."

Biological determinism

Biological determinism, also known as genetic determinism is the belief that human behaviour is controlled by an individual's genes or some component of their physiology, generally at the expense of the role of the environment, whether in embryonic development or in learning. Genetic reductionism is a similar concept, but it is distinct from genetic determinism in that the former refers to the level of understanding, while the latter refers to the supposedly causal role of genes. It has been associated with movements in science and society including eugenics, scientific racism, the debate around the heritability of IQ, the biological basis for gender roles, and the sociobiology debate.

In 1892 August Weismann proposed in his germ plasm theory that heritable information is transmitted only via germ cells, which he thought contained determinants (genes). Francis Galton, supposing that undesirable traits such as club foot and criminality were inherited, advocated eugenics, aiming to prevent supposedly defective people from breeding. Samuel George Morton and Paul Broca attempted to relate the cranial capacity (internal skull volume) to skin colour, intending to show that white people were superior. Other workers such as H. H. Goddard, and Robert Yerkes attempted to measure people's intelligence and to show that the resulting scores were heritable, again to demonstrate the supposed superiority of people with white skin.Galton popularized the phrase nature and nurture, later often used to characterize the heated debate over whether genes or the environment determined human behavior. Scientists such as ecologists and behavioural geneticists now see it as obvious that both factors are essential, and that they are intertwined.Late in the 20th century, the determinism of gender roles was debated by geneticists and others. Biologists such as John Money and Anke Ehrhardt attempted to describe femininity and homosexuality according to then-current social standards; against this, the evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin and others argued that clothing and other preferences vary in different societies. The biologist E. O. Wilson founded the discipline of sociobiology, founded on observations of animals such as social insects, controversially suggesting that its explanations of social behaviour might apply to humans.

E. O. Wilson

Edward Osborne Wilson (born June 10, 1929), usually cited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, theorist, naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants, on which he has been called the world's leading expert.Wilson has been called "the father of sociobiology" and "the father of biodiversity” for his environmental advocacy, and his secular-humanist and deist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters. Among his greatest contributions to ecological theory is the theory of island biogeography, which he developed in collaboration with the mathematical ecologist Robert MacArthur. This theory served as the foundation of the field of conservation area design, as well as the unified neutral theory of biodiversity of Stephen Hubbell.

Wilson is the Pellegrino University Research Professor, Emeritus in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, a lecturer at Duke University, and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (for On Human Nature in 1979, and The Ants in 1991) and a New York Times bestselling author for The Social Conquest of Earth, Letters to a Young Scientist, and The Meaning of Human Existence.

Evolution and Human Behavior

Evolution and Human Behavior is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering research in which evolutionary perspectives are brought to bear on the study of human behavior. It is primarily a scientific journal, but articles from scholars in the humanities are also published. Papers reporting on theoretical and empirical work on other species may be included if their relevance to the human animal is apparent. The journal is published by Elsevier on behalf of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.

Evolution of morality

The evolution of morality refers to the emergence of human moral behavior over the course of human evolution. Morality can be defined as a system of ideas about right and wrong conduct. In everyday life, morality is typically associated with human behavior, and not much thought is given to the social conducts of other creatures. The emerging fields of evolutionary biology and in particular sociobiology have argued that, though human social behaviors are complex, the precursors of human morality can be traced to the behaviors of many other social animals. Sociobiological explanations of human behavior are still controversial. The traditional view of social scientists has been that morality is a construct, and is thus culturally relative, although others argue that there is a science of morality.

Evolutionary aesthetics

Evolutionary aesthetics refers to evolutionary psychology theories in which the basic aesthetic preferences of Homo sapiens are argued to have evolved in order to enhance survival and reproductive success.Based on this theory, things like color preference, preferred mate body ratios, shapes, emotional ties with objects, and many other aspects of the aesthetic experience can be explained with reference to human evolution.

Evolutionary ethics

Evolutionary ethics is a field of inquiry that explores how evolutionary theory might bear on our understanding of ethics or morality. The range of issues investigated by evolutionary ethics is quite broad. Supporters of evolutionary ethics have claimed that it has important implications in the fields of descriptive ethics, normative ethics, and metaethics.

Descriptive evolutionary ethics consists of biological approaches to morality based on the alleged role of evolution in shaping human psychology and behavior. Such approaches may be based in scientific fields such as evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, or ethology, and seek to explain certain human moral behaviors, capacities, and tendencies in evolutionary terms. For example, the nearly universal belief that incest is morally wrong might be explained as an evolutionary adaptation that furthered human survival.

Normative (or prescriptive) evolutionary ethics, by contrast, seeks not to explain moral behavior, but to justify or debunk certain normative ethical theories or claims. For instance, some proponents of normative evolutionary ethics have argued that evolutionary theory undermines certain widely held views of humans' moral superiority over other animals.

Evolutionary metaethics asks how evolutionary theory bears on theories of ethical discourse, the question of whether objective moral values exist, and the possibility of objective moral knowledge. For example, some evolutionary ethicists have appealed to evolutionary theory to defend various forms of moral anti-realism (the claim, roughly, that objective moral facts do not exist) and moral skepticism.


The gyne is the primary reproductive female caste of social insects (especially ants, wasps, and bees of order Hymenoptera, as well as termites). Gynes are those destined to become queens, whereas female workers are typically sterile and cannot become queens. A colony with multiple queens is said to be a polygyne form, whereas with only one is a monogyne form.

The fire ant Solenopsis invicta is known to have colonies in both polygyne and monogyne forms.

The small red ant, Leptothorax acervorum, has colonies that switch from monogyny to polygyny as a result of seasonal fluctuations.The little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata produces unique kinds of meiotic oocytes with a drastic reduction in recombination. These oocytes may either fuse together for gyne production (automictic parthenogenesis with central fusion) or be fertilized by male gametes for the production of workers.In the wasp species Apoica flavissima queens display distinct morphological differences from the sterile worker class. In Ropalidia plebeiana, gynes do not stay in the nest after they emerge as adults, but may spend their winters in their maternal nests. In species lacking morphological castes (i.e., where "workers" may not be sterile), the term "gyne" is usually reserved for those females whose entire life is spent as a reproductive or potential reproductive, as opposed to those who start life as a worker and subsequently attain reproductive status (often called a "replacement queen" or a "laying worker"). These can be seen in certain species of stingless bee like the Plebeia remota where both gynes and workers are capable of reproducing. In most species with annual colony cycles, only gynes can enter diapause and overwinter, while workers – both non-reproductive and reproductive – die off. In some groups, such as paper wasps, gynes join with other gynes at the time of nest founding, and may be relegated to subordinate reproductive roles, so being a gyne does not guarantee that a female will become a queen.


Melittology (from Greek μέλιττα, melitta, "bee"; and -λογία -logia) is a branch of entomology concerning the scientific study of bees. It may also be called apicology. Melittology covers the species found in the clade Anthophila within the superfamily Apoidea, comprising more than 20,000 species, including bumblebees and honey bees.

Not in Our Genes

Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature is a 1984 book by the evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, the neurobiologist Steven Rose, and the psychologist Leon Kamin, in which the authors criticize sociobiology and genetic determinism and advocate a socialist society.

The book formed part of a larger campaign against sociobiology. Its authors were praised for their criticism of IQ testing, and were complimented by some for their critique of sociobiology. However, they have been criticized for misrepresenting the views of scientists such as the biologist E. O. Wilson and the ethologist Richard Dawkins, for using "determinism" and "reductionism" simply as terms of abuse, and for the influence of Marxism on their views. Critics have seen its authors' conclusions as political rather than scientific.

Patrilocal residence

In social anthropology, patrilocal residence or patrilocality, also known as virilocal residence or virilocality, are terms referring to the social system in which a married couple resides with or near the husband's parents. The concept of location may extend to a larger area such as a village, town or clan territory. The practice has been found in around 70 percent of the world's cultures that have been described ethnographically. Evidence has also been found among Neanderthal remains in Spain and ancient hominid archaeology in Africa.


Primatology is the scientific study of primates. It is a diverse discipline at the boundary between mammalogy and anthropology, and researchers can be found in academic departments of anatomy, anthropology, biology, medicine, psychology, veterinary sciences and zoology, as well as in animal sanctuaries, biomedical research facilities, museums and zoos. Primatologists study both living and extinct primates in their natural habitats and in laboratories by conducting field studies and experiments in order to understand aspects of their evolution and behaviour.

Queen ant

A queen ant (formally known as a gyne) is an adult, reproducing ant in an ant colony; generally she will be the mother of all the other ants in that colony. Some female ants, such as the Cataglyphis, do not need to mate to produce offspring, reproducing through asexual parthenogenesis or cloning, and all of those offspring will be female. Others, like those in the genus Crematogaster, mate in a nuptial flight. Queen offspring ant develop from larvae specially fed in order to become sexually mature among most species. Depending on the species, there can be either a single mother queen, or potentially, millions and hundreds of fertile queens in some species. Queen ants have one of the longest life-spans of any known insect – up to 30 years. A queen of Lasius niger was held in captivity by German entomologist Hermann Appel for 28​3⁄4 years; also a Pogonomyrmex owyheei has a maximum estimated longevity of 30 years in the field.

Social evolution

Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor. It is also a subdiscipline of sociology that studies evolution of social systems.

Sociobiological theories of rape

Sociobiological theories of rape explore how evolutionary adaptation influences the psychology of rapists. Such theories are highly controversial, as traditional theories typically do not consider rape to be a behavioral adaptation. Some object to such theories on ethical, religious, political, or scientific grounds. Others argue that a correct knowledge of the causes of rape is necessary to develop effective preventive measures.

Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould (; September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

Gould's most significant contribution to evolutionary biology was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972. The theory proposes that most evolution is characterized by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is infrequently punctuated by swift periods of branching speciation. The theory was contrasted against phyletic gradualism, the popular idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record.Most of Gould's empirical research was based on the land snail genera Poecilozonites and Cerion. He also made important contributions to evolutionary developmental biology, receiving broad professional recognition for his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny. In evolutionary theory he opposed strict selectionism, sociobiology as applied to humans, and evolutionary psychology. He campaigned against creationism and proposed that science and religion should be considered two distinct fields (or "non-overlapping magisteria") whose authorities do not overlap.Gould was known by the general public mainly for his 300 popular essays in Natural History magazine, and his numerous books written for both the specialist and non-specialist.

In April 2000, the US Library of Congress named him a "Living Legend".

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