Dictyostelium discoideum - dicty to its friends - has long been recognized as the world's most fascinating slime mold. A (previously) has a good introduction from a decade ago. You might be fascinated by their life cycle, which goes from individual cells, to animal-like slug, to plant-like fruiting body. You might be fascinated by their starvation-prompted altruism, in which most cells give up their lives so that a few can reproduce, and cheaters are punished. You might be fascinated by the way they farm and protect their crops. (Or maybe the farmed bacteria are farming them; it's hard to tell.) Or you might be fascinated by a brand new study about the DNA nets they use to trap and kill pathogens.
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
Steven Pinker on the "False Allure of Group Selection", with comments by Daniel Dannett, Stewart Brand, and others. Richard Dawkins's take on group selection. Jerry Coyne's take.
The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
"From a review of the anthropological and evolutionary literatures [Edge.org]... there were three best candidates for being additional psychological foundations of morality [embedded video], beyond harm/care and fairness/justice. These three we label as ingroup/loyalty (which may have evolved from the long history of cross-group or sub-group competition...); authority/respect (which may have evolved from the long history of primate hierarchy, modified by cultural limitations on power and bullying...), and purity/sanctity, which may be a much more recent system, growing out of the uniquely human emotion of disgust, which seems to give people feelings that some ways of living and acting are higher, more noble, and less carnal than others. [more inside]
evolution of cooperation apparently the evolution of cooperative behavior has been something of a rough spot for evolution researchers. Some guys (Mikhail Burtsev & Peter Turchin) developed a computer simulation that helps to explain how the essential selfishness of survival is not mutually exclusive to altruism and cooperation as well as how these behaviors can arise naturally. (further reading from google: ###)
An evolutionary basis for altruism. These findings suggest that true altruism, far from being a maladaptation, may be the key to our species' success by providing the social glue that allowed our ancestors to form strong, resilient groups. Sharing isn't just caring, it's surviving.