Bourke AFG (2011) Principles of Social Evolution. Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution (eds, P.H. Harvey, R.M. May, C.H. Godfray and J.A. Dunne), Oxford University Press, Oxford. xii + 267 pp.
Living things are organized in a hierarchy of levels. Genes group together in cells, cells group together in organisms, and organisms group together in societies. Even different species form mutualistic partnerships. Throughout the history of life, previously independent units have formed groups that, in time, have come to resemble individuals in their own right. Evolutionary biologists term such events 'the major transitions'. The process common to them all is social evolution. Each transition occurs only if natural selection favours one unit joining with another in a new kind of group. This book presents a fresh synthesis of the principles of social evolution that underlie the major transitions, explaining how the basic theory underpinning social evolution - inclusive fitness theory - is central to understanding each event. The book defines the key stages in a major transition, then highlights the shared principles operating at each stage across the transitions as a whole. It addresses in new ways the question of how, once they have arisen, organisms and societies become more individualistic.
From reviews of Principles of Social Evolution:
[with] countless invaluable insights ... rich in fascinating examples, ... deft in its handling of subtle conceptual and theoretical issues, and ... accessible to nonspecialists .... Principles of Social Evolution is another landmark contribution. Jonathan Birch, Biology & Philosophy
powerful and clear ... Bourke's contribution, marrying the mathematical and empirical study of social evolution, is both novel and helpful .... And one which is able to impress any who are inquisitive—from student to scientist to the scientifically curious. Taylor Burns, BlueSci
a remarkable book, written in an engaging yet unassuming style and filled with fascinating examples and case studies. Marco Del Guidice, Human Ethology Bulletin
Before Principles of Social Evolution, when social scientists or economists asked me to recommend a book on the evolution of cooperation, I never quite knew what to say. ... Now I will just direct people to the Principles of Social Evolution. Claire El Mouden, Evolution & Human Behavior
sets the standard for the future of research in social evolution. As such, it will be indispensable for scholars in the field of social evolution in its broadest sense. Ulrich Ernst, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
[This] book will be highly attractive to all those who are interested in the evolution of sociality, whether in insects or among individual cells. ... an excellent complement to more descriptive treatises of conflict and cooperation. Jürgen Heinze, Myrmecological News
one of the most enjoyable science books I have ever read. Jan Oettler, Basic and Applied Ecology
for those who want to understand how baboons, beehives, and inclusive fitness have changed our view of the deep structure of life, Principles of Social Evolution is a great place to start. David Queller, Evolution
[a] very useful book ... many (including the present reviewer) are going to use this book to teach a modern view of the major evolutionary transitions. Eors Szathmáry, Philosophy & Theory in Biology
a superb book, one that should change how we teach and think about life on our planet. ... an accessible, comprehensive, and highly readable overview, which will be invaluable in undergraduate teaching ... equally suitable for frontline researchers from postgraduate to professorial levels. Stuart West, Science
Bourke AFG, Franks NR (1995) Social Evolution in Ants. Monographs in Behavior and Ecology (eds, J.R. Krebs and T.H. Clutton-Brock), Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. xiii + 529 pp.
Biologists since Darwin have been intrigued and confounded by the complex issues involved in the evolution and ecology of the social behaviour of insects. The self-sacrifice of sterile workers in ant colonies has been particularly difficult for evolutionary biologists to explain. This books not only presents a detailed overview of the current state of scientific knowledge about social evolution in ants, but also shows how studies on ants have contributed to an understanding of many fundamental topics in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology. One of the substantial contributions of Social Evolution in Ants is its clear explanation of kin selection theory and sex ratio theory and their applications to social evolution in insects. Working to dispel lingering scepticism about the validity of kin selection and, more broadly, of "selfish gene" theory, the books shows how these ideas underpin the evolution of both cooperation and conflict within ant societies. In addition, using simple algebra, it provides detailed explanations of key mathematical models. Finally, the authors discuss two relatively little-known topics in ant social biology: life history strategy and mating systems.
From reviews of Social Evolution in Ants:
a complete and thorough synthesis of the key theoretical issues of sociality in Formicidae ... this volume will prove highly valuable for advanced students and researchers in all fields of evolution and behaviour ... a major contribution to the sociobiological literature. Michel Chapuisat and William Brown, Journal of Evolutionary Biology
[a] thorough and very readable book....[brings] followers of ant sociobiology up to date... the authors argue convincingly that kin selection is the single crucial factor involved in the evolution of eusociality... Ross Crozier, Science
a remarkably clear synthesis of the complex ideas that surround the evolution of sociality. I cannot praise their book too highly.... Social Evolution in Ants will surely become essential reading for any student interested in the evolution of insect sociality and will be a standard reference source for teachers and researchers alike. Graham Elmes, Times Higher Education Supplement
Bourke and Franks illustrate ... new aspects of ant life with extraordinary clarity and precision.... As a comprehensive review of recent trends in evolutionary biology in ants, Social Evolution in Ants is recommended not only to people enthusiastic about social insects but also to those with a broad interest in evolution in general. Jürgen Heinze, Nature
Overall, the book provides a remarkable review of ant social organization and, more broadly, of the types of conflict that can occur within animal societies .... the best resource for evolutionary biologists and behavioural ecologists who are interested in the knowledge and understanding that comes from theoretical and empirical studies of social behaviour in ants. Laurent Keller, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
valuable reading for all those wishing to understand the biology of sociality from an evolutionary perspective, as well as for those who wish to experience some of the exciting debates that have been central to evolutionary thought... David Nash and Giorgina Bernasconi, Quarterly Review of Biology
a fine read for all students of evolutionary biology ... This remarkable book will do much to open up the complex societies of ants to a wide audience of behavioural ecologists, and thus broaden the debate about the genetic and ecological bases of sociality in animals. Christian Peeters, Ethology
essential reading for students of evolutionary and social insect biology. David Stradling, Systematic Entomology
an excellent review of a rapidly-moving field. For specialists in sociogenetics it is an up-to-date review of theory and evidence. For neophytes or people studying other taxa, this book clearly shows what all the excitement is about. Joan Strassmann, Animal Behaviour