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The kin selection modeling approach cannot explain cooperation between non-related individuals, let alone cooperation between different species, yet both play a key role in ecosystems .
NECSI researchers have found that when organisms are distributed across their habitat and interact only with others nearby, altruism and cooperation readily arise that are not primarily based on relatedness but on the fact that individuals share the same local environment .
The model, studied by Erik Rauch, Justin Werfel and Yaneer Bar-Yam [10-13], examined the evolution of reproductive restraint and showed that selfish individuals introduced to an altruistic population always ended up being driven to extinction. This is surprising, given the expectation that selfish individuals win.
The key element of this new model is how a population can spread over an area. The researchers showed that the ability to spread only locally leads exploiters to overexploit the resources and cause their own extinction in that local area. Under the same conditions, the altruists survived by limiting their population growth to match the locally available resources. This leads to the altruists winning the evolutionary competition, and the species surviving.