Sibling rivalry and intergenerational conflict are not limited to human beings. Among seals and piglets, storks and burying beetles, in bird nests and beehives, from apples to humans, family conflicts can be deadly serious, determining who will survive and who will perish. When offspring compete for scarce resources, sibling rivalry kicks in automatically. Parents sometime play favorites or even kill their young. In More than Kin and Less than Kind, Douglas Mock tells us what scientists have discovered about this disturbing side of family dynamics in the natural world.
Natural selection operates primarily for the benefit of individuals (and their genes). Thus a family member may profit directly, by producing its own offspring, or indirectly, by helping close kin to reproduce. Much of the biology of family behavior rests on a simple mathematical relationship called Hamilton’s rule, which links the benefits and costs of seemingly altruistic or selfish behavior to the degree of relatedness between individuals.
Blending natural history and theoretical biology, Mock shows how Hamilton’s rule illuminates the study of family strife by throwing a spotlight on the two powerful forces—cooperation and competition—that shape all interaction in the family arena. In More than Kin and Less than Kind, he offers a rare perspective on the family as testing ground for the evolutionary limits of selfishness. When budgets are tight, close kin are often deadly rivals.
Siblings and parents do some very strange and dramatic things to one another. In this fine book about a fascinating subject, Doug Mock, one of the top researchers in this field, explains why. These widespread features of the animal kingdom originally puzzled biologists but no longer for reasons that Mock makes clear.
The world of animal behavior is full of many fascinating and varied phenomena. Few are more difficult to reconcile than outright cruelty among relatives. More than Kin and Less than Kind shows us how to understand the forces that can at once break up and help to stabilize family groups. It is must reading for all students of behavior. I couldn’t put it down.
Those fond of intoning piously that a biological universal is support and loyalty to one’s family members may want to rethink their position. Doug Mock has many grim tales to tell about family dynamics in species that make the Simpsons look like the Brady Bunch. But the book is much more than the natural history of family dysfunction; it is a model of how behavioral ecology can and should be done. This is a gripping read. Just don’t take the book to family reunions.
Mock has a lively and engaging style, and the skill to explain complex ideas from kin selection and related fields intelligibly without being patronizing...Mock has done a superb job in bringing a large area of contemporary behavioural ecology to both a biological and a general audience...It deserves to be read by everyone interested in the evolution of family life.
As Mock shows, storks, pigs, seals, and other creatures give people a run for their money when it comes to competition. Within families at least, people are usually less aggressive and perhaps more shrewd than animals in getting what they want, but all the species Mock examines are competitive when it comes to fulfilling needs and desires...Mock considers...aspects of the family dynamic through a wealth of scientific studies and anecdotal evidence as he redefines the evolutionary limits of selfishness among species.
Through the use of splendid examples, from rosewood pollen to penguins to premedical students, this well-written and entertaining book provides an excellent introduction to the evolution of family conflict...[Mock] details the theory and natural history of sibling rivalry across a broad sweep of animals and plants to illustrate ways in which the simple mathematical relationship called Hamilton's rule links the benefits and costs of seemingly altruistic or selfish behavior to the degree of relatedness between individuals. Countless examples display what scientists have learned about family strife in the natural world by documenting how the powerful forces of cooperation and competition shape all interactions in the family arena, and can turn close kin into deadly rivals.
Douglas Mock's engaging volume assimilates the vast literature on altruism but concentrates on the more traditional analysis of conflict...Mock's monograph demonstrates triumphantly that field studies are still a vibrant part of evolutionary biology. He is equally entertaining about his own field studies and those of others engaged in testing in the field the models of theoretical evolutionary biology...Mock's is one of those soughtafter books in science, a work of popularisation and a thoughtful synthesis of an important discipline.
- 288 pages
- 0-13/16 x 5-5/8 x 8-1/8 inches
- Belknap Press
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