Kin Selection: Definition, Theory & Examples

Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Definition of Kin Selection
  • 0:50 Genes Want to be Passed On
  • 2:35 Altruism in Action
  • 3:40 Giving All for Family
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
Create An Account
To Start This Course Today
Used by over 10 million students worldwide
Create An Account
Try it free for 5 days
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrienne Brundage
Kin selection is a type of natural selection in which an individual attempts to ensure the survival of its own genes by protecting closely related individuals first.

Definition of Kin Selection

Family is a complicated thing, isn't it? One day you're arguing over the remote, the next you're coming together for a big dinner, and then you get to fight over who does the dishes. But what happens if someone decides to pick on your little brother? Or gossips about your sister? Or insults your mother? There is nothing that that makes someone angrier than when a family member is attacked in some way. Why is that? Why can we get so frustrated with our own relatives, yet get so angry when someone outside attacks them? One explanation is kin selection.

Kin selection is a type of natural selection where individuals will sacrifice their own lives in an effort to save closely related organisms; therefore, ensuring the survival of genes that they both share.

Genes Want to be Passed On

You share a lot of things with your family, but at the most basic level, you share genes. Every individual inherits his or her genetic code from his or her parents. This is true for all living things, no matter how they pass their genes on. This also means that every living thing has genes in common with its parents, its siblings, and its offspring. Have you ever noticed that you look a lot like a beloved aunt? Or your brother is the spitting image of your grandfather? Those are common genes that you all share.

Now, the whole purpose of reproduction is to pass genes on to the next generation. Scientists call this the biological imperative, or the biological drive for every living thing to reproduce and pass on genes. But have you noticed that not every single living thing on earth has the ability to pass on its genes? I'm sure you've met people who can't have children, but did you know that there are animals that have lost reproductive ability completely?

Honeybees, for example, are mostly all female, and are mostly all infertile. They live in hives with a single queen that produces eggs, while hundreds of worker bees take care of everything else. If the whole purpose of life is to pass on genes, why are worker bees willing to take care of another bee's baby? Because the worker bees and the baby bees share a mother, which means they are all related, and share the same genes. So, by caring for the new babies, the worker bees are making sure that those genes they share are going to be passed on to a new generation, without having to have offspring themselves. This caring for closely related individuals at the expense of personal fertility is known as kin selection.

Altruism in Action

Kin selection is a type of altruistic behavior. Altruistic behavior is a set of actions by an individual that benefits someone else, while often causing harm to the individual. This is a form of selflessness that helps others survive and reproduce.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson.
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it.
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up!
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment!
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress!
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement!
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge!
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge!
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge.
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge.
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.