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Altruism and Phenoptosis as Programs Supported by Evolution

Gregory A. Shilovsky1,2,3,a*, Tatyana S. Putyatina2, and Alexander V. Markov2,4

1Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991 Moscow, Russia

2Faculty of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119234 Moscow, Russia

3Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, 127051 Moscow, Russia

4Borissiak Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117997 Moscow, Russia

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received July 30, 2021; Revised September 17, 2021; Accepted September 17, 2021
Phenoptosis is a programmed death that has emerged in the process of evolution, sometimes taking the form of an altruistic program. In particular, it is believed to be a weapon against the spread of pandemics in the past and an obstacle in fighting pandemics in the present (COVID). However, on the evolutionary scale, deterministic death is not associated with random relationships (for example, bacteria with a particular mutation), but is a product of higher nervous activity or a consequence of established hierarchy that reaches its maximal expression in eusocial communities of Hymenoptera and highly social communities of mammals. Unlike a simple association of individuals, eusociality is characterized by the appearance of non-reproductive individuals as the highest form of altruism. In contrast to primitive programs for unicellular organisms, higher multicellular organisms are characterized by the development of behavior-based phenoptotic programs, especially in the case of reproduction-associated limitation of lifespan. Therefore, we can say that the development of altruism in the course of evolution of sociality leads in its extreme manifestation to phenoptosis. Development of mathematical models for the emergence of altruism and programmed death contributes to our understanding of mechanisms underlying these paradoxical counterproductive (harmful) programs. In theory, this model can be applied not only to insects, but also to other social animals and even to the human society. Adaptive death is an extreme form of altruism. We consider altruism and programmed death as programmed processes in the mechanistic and adaptive sense, respectively. Mechanistically, this is a program existing as a predetermined chain of certain responses, regardless of its adaptive value. As to its adaptive value (regardless of the degree of “phenoptoticity”), this is a characteristic of organisms that demonstrate high levels of kinship, social organization, and physical association typical for higher-order individuals, e.g., unicellular organisms forming colonies with some characteristics of multicellular animals or colonies of multicellular animals displaying features of supraorganisms.
KEY WORDS: altruism, society, phenoptosis, pandemic, adaptive death, aging, evolution, cumulative fitness

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297921120038