There are so many cool aspects to this study!
First, it is amazing that lab evolution can produce this dramatic a change in both anatomy and behavior. These results are kind of like what we observe in artificial selection scenarios: there’s a lot of hidden variation in the genome that just doesn’t get expressed until some new and strong selective force emerges. In other words, the genome is primed and ready to evolve in ways that suggest that gene pool evolution is not just about how an individual survives now. Perhaps gene pools that survive are those that harbor variation than can ebb and flow with changes in the environment!
And the other cool thing here is how cooperation was a response to what is arguably a rough situation (losing your parental care). There have been other studies showing that harsh conditions bring out cooperation, and this one is interesting because what’s harsh is the lack of parental care. Maybe over-attentive parents fuel sibling rivalry? (Okay, let’s not try to apply what we learned in burying beetles to humans just yet…)A Minor Post, Behavior, Behavioral Ecology, Competition, Cooperation, Kin Selection, Parenting