Evolution of division of labor: Emergence of different activities among group members

Wataru Nakahashi*, Marcus W. Feldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The division of labor is an important component of the organization of human society. However, why this division evolved in hominids requires further investigation. Archeological evidence suggests that it appeared after the emergence of Homo sapiens and contributed to the great success of our species. We develop a mathematical model to investigate under what conditions division of labor should evolve. We assume two types of resources the acquisition of which demands different skills, and study the evolution of the strategy that an individual should use to divide its lifetime into learning and using each skill. We show that division of labor likely evolves when group size is large, skill learning is important for acquiring resources, and there is food sharing within a group. We also investigate division of labor by gender under the assumption that the genders have different efficiencies in acquiring each resource. We show that division of labor by gender likely evolves when skill learning is important and the difference in efficiencies between genders in acquiring resources is large. We discuss how the results of our analysis might apply to the evolution of division of labor in hominids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-79
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2014 May 7
Externally publishedYes


  • Evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS)
  • Evolutionary branching
  • Learning strategy
  • Social system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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