How Wise is Mother Nature? Maximization, Optimization and Short-Sighted Resource Use in Biological Evolution

  • Hanna KokkoEmail author
Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)


A naive interpretation of evolutionary theory is the statement that all individuals should work as hard as possible to reproduce as fast as possible. More detailed analysis proves this to be wrong: for example, a too hard working kestrel parent would waste energy on offspring that are not good at surviving, at the expense of its own lifespan. Such reasoning explains why natural selection does not always favor maximally fierce performance in competitive interactions. Some competitive situations, described as ‘zero-sum games’, however favor competitive success at the expense of conspecifics. This case, exemplified by males competing to fertilize females’ eggs, selects for a mentality where no number of resource items gained (e.g., females fertilized) is ever enough. As a consequence, natural selection can favor shortsighted behaviors where the entire population does less well because individuals strive to outcompete each other.


Natural Selection Clutch Size Elephant Seal Sexual Conflict Mother Nature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of Biology, ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Australian National UniversityActonAustralia

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