Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Kin selection's domain

The Price equation pretty clearly implied that any sort of inheritance is likely to be subject to forces associated with kin selection. However, the message seems to have sunk in slowly. Kin selection was applied to DNA-mediated inheritance, but cultural inheritance was almost completely ignored by theorists.

A widespread lack of understanding of the evolutionary significance of cultural transmission could have been responsible. Also, when cultural kin selection was studied, it was often called something else. Tag-based cooperation was one popular term. Tag-based cooperation covers both genetic and cultural kin selection.

Mimicry is another area where kin selection applies. Sysyems involving mimicry may be broadly classified into organic-mimicing-organic, cultural-mimicing-cultural and cultural-mimicing-organic.

Based on the idea of similarity selection, another source of similarity in nature involves convergent evolution. Some convergent evolution involves copying from another organism - for example the parasites of swans may convergently evolve to be white. Other types involves copying from the environment, or from the laws of physics. Kin selection based on convergent evolution may happen - but it isn't easy to think of good examples. Convergent evolution is a research area for kin selection theorists.

Lastly, there's universal Darwinism to consider. Kin selection probably applies to abiotic systems as well - but again, it is not easy to think of good examples. The best cases of high-fidelity copying there are probably crystal growth and positional inheritance. Abiotic systems represent another research area.

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