Genetic versus phenotypic models of selection: can genetics be neglected in a long-term perspective?
Abstract Game theoretical concepts in evolutionary biology have been criticized by populations geneticists, because they neglect such crucial aspects as the mating system or the mode of inheritance. In fact, the dynamics of natural selection does not necessarily lead to a fitness maximum or an ESS if genetic constraints are taken into account. Yet, it may be premature to conclude that game theoretical concepts do not have a dynamical justification. The new paradigm of long-term evolution postulates that genetic constraints, which may be dominant in a short-term perspective, will in the long run disappera in the face of the ongoing influx of mutations. Two basic results (see Hammerstein; this issue) seem to reconcile the dynamical approach of long-term population genetics with the static approach of evolutionary game theory: (1) only populations at local fitness optima (Nash strategies) can be long-term stable; and (2) in monomorphic populations, evolutionary stability is necessary and sufficient to ensure long-term dynamic stability. The present paper has a double purpose. On the one hand, it is demonstrated by fairly general arguments that the scope of the results mentioned above extends to non-linear frequency dependent selection, to multiple loci, and to quite general mating systems. On the other hand, some limitations of the theory of long-term evolution will also be stressed: (1) there is little hope for a game theoretical characterization of stability in polymorphic populations; (2) many interesting systems do not admit long-term stable equilibria; and (3) even if a long-term stable equilibrium exists, it is not at all clear whether and how it is attainable by a series of gene substition events.
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