Nautilus

Viruses Have a Secret, Altruistic Social Life

Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog.

Researchers are beginning to understand the ways in which viruses strategically manipulate and cooperate with one another.Photograph by nobeastsofierce / Flickr

ocial organisms come in all shapes and sizes, from the obviously gregarious ones like mammals and birds down to the more cryptic socializers like bacteria. Evolutionary biologists often puzzle over altruistic behaviors among them, because self-sacrificing individuals would at first seem to be at a severe disadvantage under natural selection. William D. Hamilton, one of the 20th century’s most prominent , developed a mathematical theory to explain the evolution of altruism through kin selection—for instance, why most individual ants, bees and wasps forgo the ability to reproduce and instead pour all their efforts into raising their siblings.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus5 min read
How Ancient Light Reveals the Universe’s Contents
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. In early 2003, Chuck Bennett learned the precise contents of the cosmos. By then, most cosmologists had concluded that the universe contains much more than meets the eye. Observation
Nautilus5 min readScience
The Brain Cells That Guide Animals: New evidence the neural rules of navigation are universal.
It may seem absurd to compare a tiny fruit fly’s brain to that of a majestic elephant. Yet it is the dream of many neuroscientists to find deep rules that very different brains share. As Gilles Laurent, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute fo
Nautilus12 min read
How Geology Can Ease Your Mind: Take comfort that we live on a very old, durable planet.
As a geologist and professor I speak and write rather cavalierly about eras and eons. One of the courses I routinely teach is “History of Earth and Life,” a survey of the 4.5-billion-year saga of the entire planet—in a 10-week trimester. But as a hum