With a little help from my friends: Cooperation can accelerate the rate of adaptive valley crossing

Uri Obolski, Ohad Lewin-Epstein, Eran Even-Tov, Yoav Ram, Lilach Hadany*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background Natural selection favors changes that lead to genotypes possessing high fitness. A conflict arises when several mutations are required for adaptation, but each mutation is separately deleterious. The process of a population evolving from a genotype encoding for a local fitness maximum to a higher fitness genotype is termed an adaptive peak shift. Results Here we suggest cooperative behavior as a factor that can facilitate adaptive peak shifts. We model cooperation in a public goods scenario, wherein each individual contributes resources that are later equally redistributed among all cooperating individuals. We use mathematical modeling and stochastic simulations to study the effect of cooperation on peak shifts in both panmictic and structured populations. Our results show that cooperation can substantially affect the rate of complex adaptation. Furthermore, we show that cooperation increases the population diversity throughout the peak shift process, thus increasing the robustness of the population to sudden environmental changes. Conclusions We provide a new explanation to adaptive valley crossing in natural populations and suggest that the long term evolution of a species depends on its social behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


FundersFunder number
Safety and Security ProgramUO
Safety and Security Program
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center
Israel Science Foundation1568/13
Israel Science Foundation


    • Adaptive landscape
    • Altruism
    • Cooperation
    • Mathematical models/simulations
    • Peak shift
    • Rugged fitness landscape


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