Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-2

Date: Latest Version

Alarm Calling Predicted by Inclusive Fitness


Altruistic nepotism; Antipredatory behavior; Kin selection; Vocalization


Alarm calling: vocalizations that alert other animals to immediate danger (Sherman 1977).

Inclusive fitness: a theory to explain cases when an animal behaves in such a way as to promote the advantages of other members of the species not its direct descendants at the expense of its own (Hamilton 1963, p. 354).


Alarm calling is an inherently dangerous behavior, and its adaptive function was poorly understood for decades. Calling individuals suffer direct costs (e.g., predation), and so the ultimate function was initially described as a residual behavior thought to have evolved as a signal from parents to offspring (Maynard-Smith 1965). Subsequent theories described the behavior as individually selective. Trivers (1971) suggested that alarm calls reduce the caller’s vulnerability, while calls may also reveal the predator’s location (Dawkins 1976) or else promote antipredatory behavior in so ...

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