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Keywords:

  • eusociality;
  • green beard;
  • group selection;
  • insect sociobiology;
  • kin selection;
  • social insect

Abstract  The generation-long primacy of kin selection in explaining the evolution of advanced eusociality in social insects has been challenged in recent papers. Does this challenge succeed? I consider three questions: is kin selection still the unchallengeable explanation for the evolution of eusociality; is the male haploidy of Hymenoptera important in this explanation; and, a subsidiary question of why are there no male workers in Hymenoptera? I briefly trace the origins of kin selection back to Darwin and then consider the explanations of mutualism, group selection, parental manipulation, and kin selection and its variant ‘green beard’ alleles. I stress that in the kin selection equation, however written, relatedness is deeply intertwined with ecology so that both are essential. Kin selection does remain unchallengeable but, for some, the role of male haploidy has lost favour recently despite several modelling efforts all finding that it favours the evolution of eusociality. Sex allocation is deep at the heart of the evolution of hymenopteran advanced eusociality, indicating the interacting roles of population genetics and general biology. Modellers have also found no reason for a lack of male workers, so that a biological superiority of females for this role is indicated for social Hymenoptera.