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In recent years there has been a large body of theoretical work examining how local competition can reduce and even remove selection for altruism between relatives. However, it is less well appreciated that local competition favours selection for spite, the relatively neglected ugly sister of altruism. Here, we use extensions of social evolution theory that were formulated to deal with the consequences for altruism of competition between social partners, to illustrate several points on the evolution of spite. Specifically, we show that: (i) the conditions for the evolution of spite are less restrictive than previously assumed; (ii) previous models which have demonstrated selection for spite often implicitly assumed local competition; (iii) the scale of competition must be allowed for when distinguishing different forms of spite (Hamiltonian vs. Wilsonian); (iv) local competition can enhance the spread of spiteful greenbeards; and (v) the theory makes testable predictions for how the extent of spite should vary dependent upon population structure and average relatedness.

Original publication




Journal article


J Evol Biol

Publication Date





1195 - 1203


Biological Evolution, Competitive Behavior, Models, Biological, Population Dynamics, Social Behavior