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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

6. Cooperative Societies

Kluver, Jurgen. The Evolution of Social Geometry. Complexity. 9/1, 2004. A technical exposition of how diverse social systems can be understood to embody and reflect intrinsic general principles. This article summarizes Kluver’s tome on a mathematical sociology: The Dynamics and Evolution of Social Systems. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2002.

Knight, Christopher and John Pinney. Making the Right Connections: Biological Networks in the Light of Evolution. BioEssays. 31/10, 2009. The study of evolution since the 19th century has mostly involved finding and sorting all the disparate creatures, fossil bones, lately biomolecules. But in the past decade or so, an integral turn has occurred to quantify equally present web-like interconnections at every stage and instance. University of Manchester and Imperial College London biologists here broach a novel reinterpretation of life’s temporal course in terms of such network topologies and dynamics. A strong point made is that this phenomenal pattern comes from an independent universality which seems in effect from biology to societies.

Our understanding of how evolution acts on biological networks remains patchy, as is our knowledge of how that action is best identified, modelled and understood. Starting with network structure and the evolution of protein–protein interaction networks, we briefly survey the ways in which network evolution is being addressed in the fields of systems biology, development and ecology. The approaches highlighted demonstrate a movement away from a focus on network topology towards a more integrated view, placing biological properties centre-stage. We argue that there remains great potential in a closer synergy between evolutionary biology and biological network analysis, although that may require the development of novel approaches and even different analogies for biological networks themselves. (Abstract)

Komdeur, J. and D. Heg. eds. Cooperation and Conflict over Investment Strategies in Animals. Behavior. 142/11-12, 2005. A preface to a dedicated issue of studies of this natural complementarity.

Krause, Jens and Graeme Ruxton. Living in Groups. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. A study of how social animals self-organize collective behavior such as bird migration, which is based on “multiple often simultaneous interactions between individual group members.” (5)

Krause, Jens, et al. Swarm Intelligence in Animals and Humans. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 25/12, 2009. From quorum-sensing in microbes and social insects to social networks on the worldwide web, a common, constant propensity to form groups which can acquire a modicum of their own cerebral capacity is found to grace and span the natural hierarchies.

Krause, Jens, et al, eds. Animal Social Networks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Jens Krause, Humboldt University, Richard James, University of Bath, UK, Dan Franks, University of York, and Darren Croft, University of Exeter update and expand earlier works on this pervasive communal propensity by further applications of widely used network theories. In chapters, leading authorities consider Metazoan classes from insects and fish to primates and aspects such as mating, personalities, and disease transmission.

The scientific study of networks - computer, social, and biological - has received an enormous amount of interest in recent years. However, the network approach has been applied to the field of animal behaviour relatively late compared to many other biological disciplines. Understanding social network structure is of great importance for biologists since the structural characteristics of any network will affect its constituent members and influence a range of diverse behaviours. These include finding and choosing a sexual partner, developing and maintaining cooperative relationships, and engaging in foraging and anti-predator behavior. This novel text provides an overview of the insights that network analysis has provided into major biological processes, and how it has enhanced our understanding of the social organisation of several important taxonomic groups. It brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines with the aim of providing both an overview of the power of the network approach for understanding patterns and process in animal populations, as well as outlining how current methodological constraints and challenges can be overcome.

Kronauer, Daniel and Joel Levine. The Ultimate and Proximate Underpinnings of Social Behavior. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220/4, 2017. An introduction by the Rockefeller University and University of Toronto scientists for a special Evolution of Social Behavior issue. Articles include The Ecology and Evolution of Social in Microbes by Corina Tarnita, Cognitive Skills and the Evolution of Social Systems by Russell Fernald, and Individual versus Collective Cognition in Social Insects by Ofer Feinerman and Amos Korman. Kornauer’s own paper with Waring Trible is Caste Development and Evolution in Ants, which was noted in the New York Times on January 24, 2017 by Natalie Angier as Gene-Modified Ants Shed Light on How Societies are Organized.

For this broad field of creature studies, a 2005 book Self-Organization and Evolution of Social and Biological Systems (Hemelrijk), was an initial inkling that a common, exemplary source may be in effect everywhere. As the quotes portray, a dozen years of international collaborations later, a universal recurrence of the same pattern and process from bacteria, all creatures to brain networks and social media does indeed appears to have been confirmed. See also an editorial for this issue Social Evolution: From Molecules and Superorganisms to Flocks, Shoals and Parenting. (2)

In particular, social evolutionary theory provides a unifying framework in which social behavior and the evolutionary dynamics between interacting components can be understood at a variety of organizational levels, ranging from genes in a genome, to cells in multicellular organisms, individuals in a social group, and between-species interactions. This Special Issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology highlights how the same evolutionary concepts apply to different levels of biological organization and across the tree of life. While the altruistic behavior of worker ants that defend their colony while foregoing reproduction, or the mutualistic interaction between ants that milk and defend aphids is immediately apparent, other social evolutionary interactions are less obvious, yet governed by the same principles. (4)

“Our ultimate goal is to have a fundamental understanding of how a complex biological system works,” Dr. Kronauer said. “I use ants as a model to do this.” As he sees it, ants in a colony are like cells in a multicellular organism, or like neurons in the brain: their fates joined, their labor synchronized, the whole an emergent force to be reckoned with. (NY Times)

Kurvers, Ralf, et al. The Evolutionary and Ecological Consequences of Animal Social Networks. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Online April, 2014. Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, and University of Exeter, behavioral ecologists, including Jens Krause, laud how much the application of network analysis to animal groupings has paid off because it is universally and beneficially in effect. After some 15 years, both generic network topologies and dynamics, and their exemplary presence everywhere is well studied and proven. Along with an array of self-organizing propensities, an inherent spontaneity is verified that precedes vicarious selection. Cooperation, Symbiosis, and Social Network Structures would seem to be aspects of a singular incentive to reciprocate, survive, prosper, evolve, and emerge.

The first generation of research on animal social networks was primarily aimed at introducing the concept of social networks to the fields of animal behaviour and behavioural ecology. More recently, a diverse body of evidence has shown that social fine structure matters on a broader scale than initially expected, affecting many key ecological and evolutionary processes. Here, we review this development. We discuss the effects of social network structure on evolutionary dynamics (genetic drift, fixation probabilities, and frequency-dependent selection) and social evolution (cooperation and between-individual behavioural differences). We discuss how social network structure can affect important coevolutionary processes (host–pathogen interactions and mutualisms) and population stability. We also discuss the potentially important, but poorly studied, role of social network structure on dispersal and invasion. (Abstract)

Node (or vertex): along with ties, one of the basic elements of a network. Nodes are connected in a network by ties. In animal social networks, nodes usually represent individuals. Scale-free network: a network in which the degree distribution follows a power law implying that most nodes have a low degree and few nodes have a very high degree. Tie (or edge): along with nodes, one of the two basic elements of a network, representing an interaction process between nodes. In animal social networks, these interactions include, but are not limited to, affiliative, aggressive, cooperative, and sexual interactions. (Glossary excerpts)

Lehmann, L. and L. Keller. The Evolution of Cooperation and Altruism – a General Framework and a Classification of Models. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 19/5, 2007. An introduction to a dedicated issue on this occurrence, which seems to be at odds with selfish selection, but is widespread amongst organisms. However the many efforts to do this, from genetic, behavioral, or other means, remain in need of a common terminology and synthesis. Some 16 comments follow from leading researchers. Of typical note might be Cooperation and Conflict during Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality by Richard Michod and Matthew Herron. And see also in this regard Social Semantics: Altruism, Cooperation, Mutualism, Strong Reciprocity and Group Selection by S. A. West, et al, in the same journal (20/2, 2007).

Levin, Samuel and Stuart West. Kin Selection in the RNA World. Life. Online December 5, 2017. We cite this paper about this primordial stage of rudimentary organisms because senior Oxford University zoologists find cooperative social tendencies in effect back then so as to mitigate competition even among these early nucleotide phases.

Various steps in the RNA world required cooperation. Why did life’s first inhabitants, from polymerases to synthetases, cooperate? We develop kin selection models of the RNA world to answer these questions. We develop a very simple model of RNA cooperation and then elaborate it to model three relevant issues in RNA biology: (1) whether cooperative RNAs receive the benefits of cooperation; (2) the scale of competition in RNA populations; and (3) explicit replicator diffusion and survival. We show: (1) that RNAs are likely to express partial cooperation; (2) that RNAs will need mechanisms for overcoming local competition; and (3) in a specific example of RNA cooperation, persistence after replication and offspring diffusion allow for cooperation to overcome competition. More generally, we show how kin selection can unify previously disparate answers to the question of RNA world cooperation. (Abstract)

Levin, Simon, ed. Games, Groups, and the Global Good. Berlin: Springer, 2009. The proceedings of a Templeton Foundation conference to report, contrary to a misunderstood Darwinism, that cooperative behavior is as prevalent across an actual nested, integrative evolution than brutal competition. Authorities such as Franz de Waal, Martin Nowak, David Sloan Wilson, Rebecca Flack, and others, provide robust reasons from genomes to social networks, across three inclusive sections: The Evolution of Cooperation at the Level of Individuals, Cooperation and Group Formation, and Cooperation and Problems of the Commons.

In biology, the evolution of increasingly cooperative groups has shaped the history of life. Genes collaborate in the control cells; cells efficiently divide tasks to produce cohesive multicellular individuals; individuals members of insect colonies cooperate in integrated societies. Biological cooperation provides a foundation on which to understand human behavior. (Steven Frank “Evolutionary Foundations of Cooperation and Group Cohesion” (3)


Li, Wei, et al. How Scale-free Networks and Large-scale Collective Cooperation Emerge in Complex Homogeneous Social Systems. Physical Review E. 76/045102, 2007. Physicists at Beijing Normal University and Shenzhen University propose theoretical reasons for this persistent tendency across emergent nature to develop into cognitively active societies.

In particular, our simple model suggests that the SF (scale-free) feature, which has been shown to be so pervasive in complex systems, can arise from dynamic evolution via a self-organizing mechanism through individual learning ability. These results shed light on understanding how complex networks with global collective cooperation can emerge from social individuals with local and primary abilities and instincts. (045102-4)

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