By the same authors

From the same journal

From the same journal

From inter-group conflict to inter-group cooperation: insights from social insects

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Full text download(s)

Published copy (DOI)



Publication details

JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Jan 2022
DatePublished (current) - 4 Apr 2022
Original languageEnglish


Conflict between social groups is widespread, often imposing significant costs across multiple groups. The social insects make an ideal system for investigating inter-group relationships, because their interaction types span the full harming-helping continuum, from aggressive conflict, to mutual tolerance, to cooperation between spatially separate groups. Here we review inter-group conflict in the social insects, and the various means by which they reduce the costs of conflict, including individual or colony- level avoidance, ritualistic behaviours, and even group fusion. At the opposite extreme of the harming- helping continuum, social insect groups may peacefully exchange resources and thus cooperate between groups in a manner rare outside human societies. We discuss the role of population viscosity in favouring inter-group cooperation. We present a model encompassing intra- and inter-group interactions, and local and long-distance dispersal. We show that in this multi-level population structure, the increased likelihood of cooperative partners being kin is balanced by increased kin competition, such that neither cooperation (helping) nor conflict (harming) is favoured. This model provides a baseline context in which other intra- and inter-group processes act, tipping the balance towards or away from conflict. We discuss future directions for research into the ecological factors shaping the evolution of inter-group interactions.

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • class-structure, inclusive fitness, intergroup conflict, intergroup cooperation, population viscosity, dispersal, local dispersal, movement, patch model, spatial model, social insects, ants, bees, wasps, termites, conflict, cooperation, tolerance

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations