Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Environmental Studies

Thesis Advisor

William Shields

Keywords

Kindchenschema, inclusive fitness theory, Hamilton's rule, wildlife conservation

Abstract

The unequal distribution of legal protections on endangered species has been attributed to the “charisma” and “cuteness” of protected species. However, the theory of kin selection, which predicts the genetic relationship between organisms is proportional to the amount of cooperation between them, offers an evolutionary explanation for this phenomenon.

In this thesis, it was hypothesized if the unequal distribution of legal protections on endangered species is a result of kin selection, then the genetic similarity between a species and Homo sapiens is proportional to the legal protections on that species. This hypothesis was tested by analyzing the taxonomic classifications of species protected in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The results of this analysis support the hypothesis, for organisms with greater genetic similarity to Homo sapiens (i.e. Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Primates, and Hominidae species) were afforded more legal protections in CITES than organisms with less genetic similarity to Homo sapiens.

These results indicate CITES is not an ecocentric law that recognizes the intrinsic worth of non- Homo sapiens, but an anthropocentric law that recognizes the genetic worth non-Homo sapiens have in increasing the indirect fitness of Homo sapiens. Also, these results suggest kin selection can operate between species as opposed to just within species, which indicates the existence of interspecies kin selection. Finally, the existence of interspecies kin selection suggests kin selection could play a role in interspecies cooperation.

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