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Title: Division of labour and the evolution of complex groups
Author: Cooper, Guy Alexander
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 1767
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Division of labour occurs when cooperating individuals specialise to perform different roles. This kind of behaviour is encountered widely across the tree of life, from the separate functions of distinct genes within a genome to the specialised castes of eusocial insect societies. However, division of labour is not simply a ubiquitous social behaviour across the natural world. Instead, it has also been a critical factor in the evolution of more and more complex forms of life. When individuals divide labour, they become more dependent upon the cooperation of others. When the mutual dependence scales tip such that individuals can no longer survive and reproduce outside the group, then a transition in individuality may occur such that the group itself begins to act as an evolutionary individual in its own right. For example, the division of labour between reproductive germ cells and sterile somatic cells facilitated the evolution of obligate multicellular organisms. A similar division between reproductive queens and sterile workers underlies the evolution of eusocial insect societies. As a consequence, the study of division of labour not only provides explanations for a diverse behaviour but can also help us to understand why some forms of life have become so complex. In this thesis, I have employed kin-selection theory to explain the evolution of division of labour between helpers and reproductives. I first show when such division of labour is favoured over uniform behaviour and draw conclusions about the degree of specialisation that is expected to evolve. I next consider the biological factors that can lead to the evolution of social groups comprised predominantly of sterile helpers. I then develop evolutionary theory to explain why labour dividers may employ environmental information to optimally coordinate their allocation of labour. In much of this work, I consider the effect of relatedness on the evolution of division and its various forms. I finish the thesis with an opinion piece on the different ways that relatedness may be modelled in social evolution theory.
Supervisor: West, Stuart Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Evolutionary theory