Pathways to social evolution and their evolutionary feedbacks

Yimen G. Araya-Ajoy, David F. Westneat, Jonathan Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In the context of social evolution, the ecological drivers of selection are the phenotypes of other individuals. The social environment can thus evolve, potentially changing the adaptive value for different social strategies. Different branches of evolutionary biology have traditionally focused on different aspects of these feedbacks. Here, we synthesize behavioral ecology theory concerning evolutionarily stable strategies when fitness is frequency dependent with quantitative genetic models providing statistical descriptions of evolutionary responses to social selection. Using path analyses, we review how social interactions influence the strength of selection and how social responsiveness, social impact, and non-random social assortment affect responses to social selection. We then detail how the frequency-dependent nature of social interactions fits into this framework and how it imposes selection on traits mediating social responsiveness, social impact, and social assortment, further affecting evolutionary dynamics. Throughout, we discuss the parameters in quantitative genetics models of social evolution from a behavioral ecology perspective and identify their statistical counterparts in empirical studies. This integration of behavioral ecology and quantitative genetic perspectives should lead to greater clarity in the generation of hypotheses and more focused empirical research regarding evolutionary pathways and feedbacks inherent in specific social interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1894-1907
Number of pages14
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Evolution published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Society for the Study of Evolution


  • Frequency dependence
  • game theory
  • genetic relatedness
  • indirect genetic effects
  • kin selection
  • quantitative genetics
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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