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Evolutionary transitions in heritability and individuality

  • Pierrick BourratEmail author
Original Article
  • 124 Downloads

Abstract

With a few exceptions, the literature on evolutionary transitions in individuality (ETIs) has mostly focused on the relationships between lower-level (particle-level) and higher-level (collective-level) selection, leaving aside the question of the relationship between particle-level and collective-level inheritance. Yet, without an account of this relationship, our hope to fully understand the evolutionary mechanisms underlying ETIs is impeded. To that effect, I present a highly idealized model to study the relationship between particle-level and collective-level heritability both when a collective-level trait is a linear function and when it is a nonlinear function of a particle-level trait. I first show that when a collective trait is a linear function of a particle-level trait, collective-level heritability is a by-product of particle-level heritability. It is equal to particle-level heritability, whether the particles interact randomly or not to form collectives. Second, I show that one effect of population structure is the reduction in variance in offspring collective-level character for a given parental collective. I propose that this reduction in variance is one dimension of individuality. Third, I show that even in the simple case of a nonlinear collective-level character, collective-level heritability is not only weak but also highly dependent on the frequency of the different types of particles in the global population. Finally, I show that population structure, because one of its effects is to reduce the variance in offspring collective-level character, allows not only for an increase in collective-level character but renders it less context dependent. This in turn permits a stable collective-level response to selection. The upshot is that population structure is a driver for ETIs. These results are particularly significant in that the relationship between population structure and collective-level heritability has, to my knowledge, not been previously explored in the context of ETIs.

Keywords

Heritability Individuality Evolutionary transitions in individuality Interaction Population structure 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am thankful to Matthew Herron, Michael Bentley, and two anonymous reviewers who provided useful feedback on previous versions of this manuscript. I am also thankful to the Theory and Method in Biosciences group at the University of Sydney and more particularly Stefan Gawronski who proofread the final manuscript. This research was supported by a Macquarie University Research Fellowship and a Large Grant from the John Templeton Foundation (Grant ID 60811).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Charles Perkins CentreThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia

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