Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis the Season Redux

In a recent post I mentioned the fact that the marmoset, a small South American primate, engages in altruist behavior towards other genetically unrelated members of its species. This behavioral trait was linked to the cooperative breeding system of marmosets in which, like humans, both parents contribute to the rearing of their offspring. Now a new study illuminates the underlying genetic basis for this behavior. For the first time a common, but variable human gene, also found in lower mammals, has been shown to contribute to displays of generosity in an economic-decision making game. The finding that the same gene contributing to social bonding in lower animals also appears to operate similarly in human behavior suggests a common evolutionary mechanism. To read more go to this article at ScienceDaily. Both the behavioral and genetic research are mutually supportive and demonstrate that the “Christmas spirit” is a product of evolutionary biology.

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