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Hamilton´s indicators of the force of selection

Baudisch, A.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102:23, 8263-8268 (2005)

Abstract

To quantify the force of selection, Hamilton [Hamilton, W. D. (1966) J. Theor. Biol. 12, 12–45] derived expressions for the change in fitness with respect to age-specific mutations. Hamilton´s indicators are decreasing functions of age. He concluded that senescence is inevitable: survival and fertility decline with age. I show that alternative parameterizations of mutational effects lead to indicators that can increase with age. I then consider the case of deleterious mutations with age-specific effects. In this case, it is the balance between mutation and selection pressure that determines the equilibrium number of mutations in a population. In this balance, the effects of different parameterizations cancel out, but only to a linear approximation. I show that mutation accumulation has little impact at ages when this linear approximation holds. When mutation accumulation matters, nonlinear effects become important, and the parameterizations of mutational effects make a difference. The results also suggest that mutation accumulation may be relatively unimportant over most of the reproductive lifespan of any species.

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