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An arms race between producers and scroungers can drive the evolution of social cognition.

Arbilly, Michal; Weissman, Daniel B; Feldman, Marcus W; Grodzinski, Uri.
Behav Ecol ; 25(3): 487-495, 2014 May.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-24822021
The "social intelligence hypothesis" states that the need to cope with complexities of social life has driven the evolution of advanced cognitive abilities. It is usually invoked in the context of challenges arising from complex intragroup structures, hierarchies, and alliances. However, a fundamental aspect of group living remains largely unexplored as a driving force in cognitive evolution the competition between individuals searching for resources (producers) and conspecifics that parasitize their findings (scroungers). In populations of social foragers, abilities that enable scroungers to steal by outsmarting producers, and those allowing producers to prevent theft by outsmarting scroungers, are likely to be beneficial and may fuel a cognitive arms race. Using analytical theory and agent-based simulations, we present a general model for such a race that is driven by the producer-scrounger game and show that the race's plausibility is dramatically affected by the nature of the evolving abilities. If scrounging and scrounging avoidance rely on separate, strategy-specific cognitive abilities, arms races are short-lived and have a limited effect on cognition. However, general cognitive abilities that facilitate both scrounging and scrounging avoidance undergo stable, long-lasting arms races. Thus, ubiquitous foraging interactions may lead to the evolution of general cognitive abilities in social animals, without the requirement of complex intragroup structures.