Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Selfish and Spiteful Behaviour in an Evolutionary Model

Abstract

INCIDENTS in which an animal attacks another of the same species, drives it from a territory, or even kills and devours it are commonplace. They may be described as examples of biological selfishness. The effect consists of two obvious parts: the gains (in fitness) of the victor and the losses of the victim. Attempts to secure the gains are easily understood to be adaptive: this is the fundamental response to what Darwin called the “struggle for existence”. But, considering the more controversial catch-phrase of evolutionary theory—“the survival of the fittest”—it seems to be a neglected question whether the harm delivered to an adversary is always merely an unfortunate consequence of adaptations for survival. Could such harm ever be adaptive in itself ? Or nearer, to the possibility of a test, would we ever expect an animal to be ready to harm itself in order to harm another more ? Such behaviour could be called spite. Is it ever observed ?

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Hamilton, W. D., Amer. Nat., 97, 354 (1963).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Hamilton, W. D., J. Theor. Biol., 7, 1 (1964).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Hamilton, W. D., in Man and Beast: Comparative Social Behaviour (Proc. Smithsonian Institution Third Intern. Symp., 1969) (in the press).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Price, G. R., Nature, 227, 520 (1970).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Wright, S., Amer. Nat., 56, 330 (1922).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Wright, S., Genetics, 19, 395 (1965).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Wright, S., Ann. Eugenics, 15, 323 (1951).

    Article  MathSciNet  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Wright, S., Bull. Amer. Math. Soc., 48, 223 (1942).

    Article  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  9. Orians, G. H., and Willson, M. F., Ecology, 45, 736 (1964).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Marshall, A. J., Bowerbirds (Oxford Univ. Press, 1954).

  11. Corbet, P. S., and Griffiths, A., Proc. Roy. Entomol. Soc., A, 38, 125 (1963).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Kirkpatrick, T. W., Insect Life in the Tropics (Longmans, London, 1957).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Walker, M. G., Canad. J. Res., 20, 235 (1942).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

HAMILTON, W. Selfish and Spiteful Behaviour in an Evolutionary Model. Nature 228, 1218–1220 (1970). https://doi.org/10.1038/2281218a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/2281218a0

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing