Evolution of heritable behavioural differences in a model of social division of labour

Zsóka Vásárhelyi, Géza Meszéna, István Scheuring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


The spectacular diversity of personality and behaviour of animals and humans has evoked many hypotheses intended to explain its developmental and evolutionary background. Although the list of the possible contributing mechanisms seems long, we propose that an underemphasised explanation is the division of labour creating negative frequency dependent selection.We use analytical and numerical models of social division of labour to show how selection can create consistent and heritable behavioural differences in a population, where randomly sampled individuals solve a collective task together.We assume that the collective task needs collaboration of individuals performing one of the two possible subtasks. The total benefit of the group is highest when the ratio of different subtasks is closest to 1. The probability of choosing one of the two costly subtasks and the costs assigned to them are under selection. By using adaptive dynamics we show that if a trade-off between the costs of the subtasks is strong enough, then evolution leads to coexistence of specialized individuals performing one of the subtasks with high probability and low cost. Our analytical results were verified and extended by numerical simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere977
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2015



  • Adaptive dynamics
  • Behavioural syndrome
  • Cooperation
  • Division of labour
  • Personality
  • Specialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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