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Article: Nice Guys Do Finish First In Lizards' Evolutionary Race

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    Nice Guys Do Finish First In Lizards Evolutionary Race Getting beaten up by the neighborhood bully so your buddy can get some tail may seem like a rough life,
    Message 1 of 2 , May 3 5:09 PM
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      Nice Guys Do Finish First In Lizards' Evolutionary Race

      Getting beaten up by the neighborhood bully so your buddy can get some tail may seem like a rough life, but it not only works for some lizards, it also gives a fascinating peek into hard-wired altruism in evolutionary biology.

      Side-blotched lizards spend their year on earth looking to reproduce, and their strategies have lessons about evolution. An article in the May 9 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first genetic evidence of a trait that the animals recognize and use -- even if that trait seems on the surface to be counterproductive.

      "Cooperation is a tricky thing in terms of evolutionary theory," said Andrew McAdam, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and zoology at Michigan State University and one of the paper's authors. "The question then is why do some organisms cooperate when it seems like being selfish should be the best strategy?"

      Turns out, it's all in the genes.

      For two decades, Barry Sinervo from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California -- Santa Cruz (the study's lead author) has been studying side-blotched lizards of the Central Valley of California, funded by the National Science Foundation. Males break down into three throat colors, flagging different behaviors, which Sinervo has discovered follow "rock-paper-scissors" cycles of lizard lust.

      Orange-throated lizards are the big bullies, roaming far from home to raid female territories and mate. They generally beat blue-throated lizards, the stay-at-home dad types. The blues stick close to home to protect females and have a buddy system. One blue-throat will do battle with the orange-throat, enabling his buddy stay fit and mate. McAdam explains that the altruistic blue-throat does this, even though as a result he will sire few, if any, offspring.

      The yellow-throated lizards are sneakers -- they casually sneak into female havens and mate without calling a lot of attention to themselves. Blues "beat" yellows because they're close to home keeping watch. Yellows "beat" orange because the bullies aren't sticking close enough to home to keep an eye on things.

      Research has focused on why the blue throats are willing to cast aside their own opportunities to procreate for the benefit of a friend.

      "Why not abandon them and become loners -- why not go it alone?" McAdam said. "The blue throats can set up new territories and be successful. That's the evolutionary puzzle that we needed to solve."

      Gene mapping revealed that the male blue-throats who buddied up are not even remotely related -- yet still share many genes. Somehow, McAdam said, the altruistic lizards know they're working to pass on their genes, even though their partners aren't family. The tag-team approach does effectively thwart the orange-throat bullies, albeit at a personal cost.

      The term "greenbeard" refers to an evolutionary term of a trait so obvious that others can recognize The greenbeard in this case, McAdam said, is more than just a blue throat. The mechanism of self identification could be smell, or possibly body language. The lizards have a head-bobbing action that might be signaling genetic simpatico.

      Full Text from Michigan State University via ScienceDaily
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060502171557.htm

      Comment:
      How does game theory cope with hard wired altruism?  If altruism has a genetic component, then it must be included as the default mode for all species that have that genetic predisposition - one can not assume that there is no such hard wired or genetic predisposition just because game theory does not predict it.

      Posted by
      Robert Karl Stonjek

    • Irwin Silverman
      Irwin Silverman, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor of Psychology York University 4700 Keele Street Toronto ON M3J 1P3 Canada ph - 416-736-5115 x66213 fax -
      Message 2 of 2 , May 4 6:36 AM
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        Irwin Silverman, Ph.D.
        Emeritus Professor of Psychology
        York University
        4700 Keele Street
        Toronto ON M3J 1P3
        Canada

        ph - 416-736-5115 x66213
        fax - 416-736-5814

        On Thu, 4 May 2006, Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:

        > Nice Guys Do Finish First In Lizards' Evolutionary Race

        (excerpt)

        >Orange-throated lizards are the big bullies, roaming far from home to
        raid female territories and mate. They generally beat blue-throated lizards,
        the stay-at-home dad types. The blues stick close to home to protect females
        and have a buddy system. One blue-throat will do battle with the orange-throat,
        enabling his buddy stay fit and mate. McAdam explains that the altruistic
        blue-throat does this, even though as a result he will sire few, if any,
        offspring.

        > The yellow-throated lizards are sneakers -- they casually sneak into
        female havens and mate without calling a lot of attention to themselves.
        Blues "beat" yellows because they're close to home keeping watch. Yellows
        "beat" orange because the bullies aren't sticking close enough to home to
        > keep an eye on things.

        This is a fascinating observation, but I don't understand why
        it is titled "Nice guys do finish first" or why it is assumed that "Blues
        beat yellows" -
        From my read, there are three types: bullies, sneaks, and
        altruistic dads and altruistic dads are probably getting the fewest
        reproductive opportunities. Reading the full article didn't help either.

        I have a problem with this statement as well.

        > Gene mapping revealed that the male blue-throats who buddied up are not
        > even remotely related -- yet still share many genes.

        How did the genes-in-common get there if they are "not even remotely
        related?" Creation?

        I.S.
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