Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Stupid strategies' could be best for the genes

Date:
March 1, 2011
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
Blindly copying what your parents did -- no matter how stupid it may seem -- could be the best strategy for the long-term success of your genes, according to new research.

Blindly copying what your parents did -- no matter how stupid it may seem -- could be the best strategy for the long-term success of your genes, according to research by the Universities of Exeter and Bristol.

The findings of the study, published in Ecology Letters, show that apparently mindless survival strategies -- such as the long-distance migration of many animals to breed at the place they were born -- may not be as impractical as they appear.

Using mathematical models, researchers compared the evolutionary success of straightforward copying strategies with that of more dynamic approaches that focused on adapting to new information to make key lifestyle decisions.

Dr Sasha Dall, from Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Cornwall, said: "From an individual perspective, sometimes sticking to what your parents did may seem a ridiculously stupid thing to do, especially when they can be out of touch with current events. However, it's a different story when you look at it from the perspective of your genes.

"What we actually found is, in certain circumstances, it can be a more effective method of ensuring long-term survival of your genes than more nuanced strategies. So, surprisingly, this kind of mindless strategy can actually be more effective than the more sophisticated alternative of adjusting to changes you detect in your environment."

The conclusion centres around what they are calling the 'multiplier effect'. This states that if you are in exactly the right environment for your genotype, you will thrive and breed. So, over generations, more and more individuals will find themselves in conditions to which they are suited if they just do what their parents did.

Those in the wrong place for their genotypes will not do well and others who behave like them will leave fewer and fewer descendents -- leaving those being born in the right places to dominate the population.

Professor John McNamara from the Bristol's School of Mathematics added: "The sheer fact you are alive is a big clue, because your parents must have got it right. If you follow their lead, you should get it right too.'

"Using a mathematical model, we've shown this is more successful than the alternative approach of adjusting behaviour to current conditions when the environment changes a bit, but not too much, between generations, and where there is a choice of both good and bad places to be.

"When you try to adapt to your environment, you can make mistakes which could prove costly or even fatal. Also, this approach may require a lot of time and effort -- which again could limit the success it brings on an evolutionary basis."

This conclusion explains some of the seemingly impractical lifestyles seen in nature. For example, many sea turtles return to the same beach they were born on to lay their eggs, even though they swim past perfectly good beaches on the way.

While this may not seem like an efficient strategy, in the right conditions it can be a successful way of ensuring the long-term survival of your 'selfish' genes.

Dr Dall said: "This may not seem very smart, but those turtles are actually sticking to the safest bet there could be -- the spot where they know their parents successfully gave birth to them.

"We're not saying that this works for every species or all of the time, but it does shed a bit of light on this interesting area of animal behaviour and evolutionary biology."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John M. McNamara, Sasha R. X. Dall. The evolution of unconditional strategies via the ‘multiplier effect’. Ecology Letters, 2011; 14 (3): 237 DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01576.x

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "'Stupid strategies' could be best for the genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228104113.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2011, March 1). 'Stupid strategies' could be best for the genes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228104113.htm
University of Exeter. "'Stupid strategies' could be best for the genes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228104113.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins