altruism

Science Dictionary
altruism   (āl'tr-ĭz'əm)  Pronunciation Key 
Instinctive cooperative behavior that is detrimental or without reproductive benefit to the individual but that contributes to the survival of the group to which the individual belongs. The willingness of a subordinate member of a wolf pack to forgo mating and help care for the dominant pair's pups is an example of altruistic behavior. While the individual may not reproduce, or may reproduce less often, its behavior helps ensure that a close relative does successfully reproduce, thus passing on a large share of the altruistic individual's genetic material.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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