Linked selection and the evolution of altruism in family-structured populations

Lia Thomson, Daniel Priego Espinosa, Yaniv Brandvain, Jeremy Van Cleve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much research on the evolution of altruism via kin selection, group selection, and reciprocity focuses on the role of a single locus or quantitative trait. Very few studies have explored how linked selection, or selection at loci neighboring an altruism locus, impacts the evolution of altruism. While linked selection can decrease the efficacy of selection at neighboring loci, it might have other effects including promoting selection for altruism by increasing relatedness in regions of low recombination. Here, we used population genetic simulations to study how negative selection at linked loci, or background selection, affects the evolution of altruism. When altruism occurs between full siblings, we found that background selection interfered with selection on the altruistic allele, increasing its fixation probability when the altruistic allele was disfavored and reducing its fixation when the allele was favored. In other words, background selection has the same effect on altruistic genes in family-structured populations as it does on other, nonsocial, genes. This contrasts with prior research showing that linked selective sweeps can favor the evolution of cooperation, and we discuss possibilities for resolving these contrasting results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10980
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • altruism
  • kin selection
  • linked selection
  • social evolution

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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