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The Modern Synthesis (MS) is the current paradigm in evolutionary biology. It was actually built by expanding on the conceptual foundations laid out by its predecessors, Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. For sometime now there has been talk of a new Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES), and this article begins to outline why we may need such an extension, and how it may come about. As philosopher Karl Popper has noticed, the current evolutionary theory is a theory of genes, and we still lack a theory of forms. The field began, in fact, as a theory of forms in Darwin's days, and the major goal that an EES will aim for is a unification of our theories of genes and of forms. This may be achieved through an organic grafting of novel concepts onto the foundational structure of the MS, particularly evolvability, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic inheritance, complexity theory, and the theory of evolution in highly dimensional adaptive landscapes.
In many instances, there are large sex differences in mutation rates, recombination rates, selection, rates of gene flow, and genetic drift. Mutation rates are often higher in males, a difference that has been estimated both directly and indirectly. The higher male mutation rate appears related to the larger number of cell divisions in male lineages but mutation rates also appear gene- and organism-specific. When there is recombination in only one sex, it is always the homogametic sex. When there is recombination in both sexes, females often have higher recombination but there are many exceptions. There are a number of hypotheses to explain the sex differences in recombination. Sex-specific differences in selection may result in stable polymorphisms or for sex chromosomes, faster evolutionary change. In addition, sex-dependent selection may result in antagonistic pleiotropy or sexually antagonistic genes. There are many examples of sex-specific differences in gene flow (dispersal) and a number of adaptive explanations for these differences. The overall effective population size (genetic drift) is dominated by the lower sex-specific effective population size. The mean of the mutation, recombination, and gene flow rates over the two sexes can be used in a population genetics context unless there are sex-specific differences in selection or genetic drift. Sex-specific differences in these evolutionary factors appear to be unrelated to each other. The evolutionary explanations for sex-specific differences for each factor are multifaceted and, in addition, explanations may include chance, nonadaptive differences, or mechanistic, nonevolutionary factors.
Male mate choice, expressed through courtship preferences, sometime occurs even under the mating system of polygyny, when the operational sex ratio is skewed toward males. The conditions under which male mate choice may be expected during polygyny are not well established. Servedio and Lande (2006, Evolution 60:674-685), assuming strict polygyny where all females have equal mating success, show that when having a preference does not increase the amount of energy that a male can put into courtship, male preferences for “arbitrary” female ornaments should not be expected to evolve; direct selection acts against them because they place males that carry them into situations in which there is high competition for mates. Here I explore in detail two situations under which logic dictates that this effect may be overcome or reversed. First I determine the contributions that direct and indirect selection place on male versus female preferences for traits that increase viability, using notation that allows the exact expression of these measures of selection. I find that direct selection against male preferences still predominates in the male mate choice model, causing less evolution by male than female preferences under these conditions. Second I address whether male mate choice is likely to evolve as a mechanism of premating isolation leading to species recognition, driven by the process of reinforcement. Reinforcement is compared under male and female mate choice, using a variety of models analyzed by both analytical techniques assuming weak selection and numerical techniques under broader selective conditions. I demonstrate that although under many conditions stronger premating isolation evolves under female mate choice, reinforcement may indeed occur via male mate choice alone.
The possibility that older, often nonreproductive, individuals may engage in kin-directed cooperative behavior has been largely overlooked in the study of cooperative breeding. Here, we describe and investigate the adaptive significance of such “grandparent” helpers in the Seychelles warbler, the first bird species in which this phenomenon has been observed. On Cousin Island, over a period of 24 years, a significant proportion (13.7%) of females, but few males (3.0%), was deposed from dominant positions. Deposed females were replaced by related females. However there was no evidence that older, senescent females were stepping aside to gain greater fitness benefits by increasing the reproductive success of their offspring, rather than breeding themselves; deposed females were not postreproductive, nor was being deposed linked to age or reproductive senescence. Of the deposed females, 68% became subordinates and helped to raise group offspring, accounting for ca. 10% of subordinates in any year. Demoted females were related (r= 0.24) to the group offspring and, consequently, could gain indirect benefits through helping. As direct benefits appeared to be limited, we suggest that indirect benefits have driven the evolution of such “grandparent helpers.” This study now provides evidence for a new route to cooperative breeding in birds.
The influence of maternal care on child survival has evolved throughout human history due to variation in altriciality, allocare, and maternal behaviors. Here, we study the impact of these factors on the force of selection acting on age-specific survival and fertility (measured with elasticity analysis) in a model that incorporates the dependence of child survival on maternal survival. Results reveal life-history changes that cannot be elucidated when considering child's survival independent of maternal survival: decrease of late fertility and increase of late survival, and concomitant decrease of early and late fertility. We also show that an increase of child altriciality in early humans might explain the main human life-history traits: a high life expectancy and postreproductive life; a long juvenile period and a higher, and narrowed, fertility at the peak of the reproductive period.
As the brain is responsible for managing an individual's behavioral response to its environment, we should expect that large relative brain size is an evolutionary response to cognitively challenging behaviors. The “social brain hypothesis” argues that maintaining group cohesion is cognitively demanding as individuals living in groups need to be able to resolve conflicts that impact on their ability to meet resource requirements. If sociality does impose cognitive demands, we expect changes in relative brain size and sociality to be coupled over evolutionary time. In this study, we analyze data on sociality and relative brain size for 206 species of ungulates, carnivores, and primates and provide, for the first time, evidence that changes in sociality and relative brain size are closely correlated over evolutionary time for all three mammalian orders. This suggests a process of coevolution and provides support for the social brain theory. However, differences between taxonomic orders in the stability of the transition between small-brained/nonsocial and large-brained/social imply that, although sociality is cognitively demanding, sociality and relative brain size can become decoupled in some cases. Carnivores seem to have been especially prone to this.
Body size at birth has implications for the quality of individuals throughout their life. Although large body size is generally considered an advantage, the relationship between body size at birth and long-term fitness is often complicated. Under spatial or temporal variation in environmental conditions, such as the seasonally changing densities of Fennoscandian vole populations, selection should favor variation in offspring phenotypes, as different qualities may be beneficial in different conditions. We performed an experiment in which a novel hormonal manipulation method was used to increase phenotypic variance in body size at birth in the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). The effects of body size on the future fitness of young males and females were then studied at varying population densities in outdoor enclosures. Our results show that small body size at birth and high breeding density increase the survival costs of reproduction. However, there was no interaction between the effects of body size and density on survival, which suggests that the fitness effects of body size were strong enough to persist under environmental variation. Moreover, litter size and the probability of breeding were more sensitive to variation in breeding density than offspring size. Therefore, it is unlikely that individual fitness could be optimized by adjusting offspring body size to the prevailing population density through adaptive maternal effects. Our results highlight the significance of the costs of reproduction in the evolution of life-history traits, and give strong experimental support for the long-term fitness effects of body size at birth.
In nonresource based mating systems females are thought to derive indirect genetic benefits by mating with high-quality males. Such benefits can be due either to the intrinsic genetic quality of sires or to beneficial interactions between maternal and paternal haplotypes. Animals with external fertilization and no parental care offer unrivaled opportunities to address these hypotheses. With these systems, cross-classified breeding designs and in vitro fertilization can be used to disentangle sources of genetic and environmental variance in offspring fitness. Here, we employ these approaches in the Australian sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma and explore how sire-dam identities influence fertilization rates, embryo viability (survival to hatching), and metamorphosis, as well as the interrelationships between these potential fitness traits. We show that fertilization is influenced by a combination of strong maternal effects and intrinsic male effects. Our subsequent analysis of embryo viability, however, revealed a highly significant interaction between parental genotypes, indicating that partial incompatibilities can severely limit offspring survival at this life-history stage. Importantly, we detected no significant relationship between fertilization rates and embryo viability. This finding suggests that fertilization rates should not be inferred from hatching rates, which is commonly practiced in species in which it is not possible to estimate fertilization at conception. Finally, we detected significant additive genetic variance due to sires in rates of juvenile metamorphosis, and a positive correlation between fertilization rates and metamorphosis. This latter finding indicates that the performance of a male's ejaculate in noncompetitive IVF trials predicts herita