Critical issues in experimental studies of prosociality in non-human species

Prosociality and acts of altruism are defined as behaviours which benefit another with either no gain or some immediate cost to the self. To understand the evolutionary origins of these behaviours, in recent years, studies have extended to primate species; however, studies on non-primates are still scarce. In light of the fact that phylogenetic closeness to humans does not appear to correlate with prosocial tendencies, but rather differences in the propensity towards prosociality may be linked to allomaternal care or collaborative foraging, it appears that convergent selection pressures may be at work in the evolution of prosociality. It would hence seem particularly important to extend such studies to species outside the primate clade, to allow for comparative hypothesis testing of the factors affecting the evolution of prosocial behaviours.

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Jennifer Bentlage, MSc.

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