Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Usefulness of a Concept Called Autonomous Selection

Version 1 : Received: 20 July 2019 / Approved: 25 July 2019 / Online: 25 July 2019 (08:24:32 CEST)

How to cite: Solon, I.S. Usefulness of a Concept Called Autonomous Selection. Preprints 2019, 2019070285. Solon, I.S. Usefulness of a Concept Called Autonomous Selection. Preprints 2019, 2019070285.


Here, I introduce a concept called autonomous selection to refer to a source of selection that is part of the individuals upon which it acts. The concept is motivated by a set of phenomena with the following characteristics: Natural selection shaped a variant (e.g., gene, epigenetic mark, or combination thereof) to act in a manner that reduces the frequency of one or more heritable traits of the individual in which it is located if those traits are detrimental to individual or group fitness. Phenomena with these characteristics are peculiar to traditional evolutionary theory but have been identified rather frequently in recent decades. They are also relevant to adaptive evolution: By reducing the frequency of a trait detrimental to fitness, the variant accelerates the evolution of adaptations, which allows its holders to adapt better to constantly changing environments. The variant is shaped by (natural) selection, but also does (autonomous) selection. Several phenomena with these characteristics have been invoked by proponents of the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES). The concept of autonomous selection helps resolve some of the controversy surrounding the EES: EES proponents call attention to the incompleteness of contemporary theory, emphasizing individuals’ processes that influence which adaptations those individuals evolve. I argue for the special importance of individuals’ processes that do not just influence those individuals’ adaptations, but also accelerate the adaptive evolution of those individuals. All known phenomena that fit this description are examples of autonomous selection. Other phenomena raised by EES proponents do not meet this threshold.


extended evolutionary synthesis; inheritance of acquired characters; stress-induced mutagenesis; fitness-dependent sex; horizontal gene transfer


Biology and Life Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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