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reciprocal altruismreziproker Altruismus (ger.)

  • Behaviour that benefits another unrelated organism, carried out in the expectation of its being reciprocated; the theory holding that behaviour of this type has evolved because is likely to increase the chances of survival or reproductive success for the apparently altruistic organism. (OED 2011)
    social behaviour

    Although the preconditions for the evolution of reciprocal altruism are specialized, many species probably meet them and display this type of altruism. This paper will limit itself, however, to three instances. The first, behavior involved in cleaning symbioses, is chosen because it permits a clear discrimination between this model and that based on kin selection (Hamilton, 1964). The second, warning calls in birds, has already been elaborately analyzed in terms of kin selection; it is discussed here to show how the model presented above leads to a very different interpretation of these familiar behaviors. Finally, human reciprocal altruism is discussed in detail because it represents the best documented case of reciprocal altruism known, because there has apparently been strong selection for a very complex system regulating altruistic behavior, and because the above model permits the functional interpretation of details of the system that otherwise remain obscure. […] Clearly, what matters for the evolution of reciprocal altruism is that the same two individuals interact repeatedly.

    Trivers, R.L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quart. Rev. Biol. 46, 35-57: 39; 46.


    [A] form of pseudo-altruism, termed “reciprocal altruism” (Trivers, 1971), does not require genetic affinity of kin selection to operate. In reciprocal altruism, some behavioral act incurs a relatively minor loss to a donor but provides a recipient with a large gain; thus two entirely unrelated animals can both benefit from mutual assistance. An example best explained by reciprocal altruism is the posting of sentinels.

    Pianka, E. (1974). Evolutionary Ecology: 128.


    reciprocal altruism Any mutually beneficial behaviour.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 212.