Preprint Essay Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Revisiting Van Valen's Red Queen Hypothesis

Version 1 : Received: 12 April 2021 / Approved: 16 April 2021 / Online: 16 April 2021 (11:02:26 CEST)

How to cite: Sole, R. Revisiting Van Valen's Red Queen Hypothesis. Preprints 2021, 2021040436. Sole, R. Revisiting Van Valen's Red Queen Hypothesis. Preprints 2021, 2021040436.


Leigh Van Valen was an American evolutionary biologist who made major contributions to evolutionary theory and is particularly remembered by his groundbreaking paper "A New Evolutionary Law" (1973) where he provided evidence from fossil record data that this law maintains that the probability of extinction within any group remains es­sentially constant through time. In order to explain such unexpected result, Van Valen formulated a very influential idea that he dubbed the "Red Queen hypothesis". It states that the constant decay must be a consequence of evolutionary interactions among connected species within ecological networks. In Van Valen's picture, species do not merely evolve: they also coevolve with other species. As a consequence, when thinking in adaptation to an external environment, the other species must be considered as part (may be a major part) of such external world. Van Valen's law provided the first complex systems theory of coevolutionary dynamics and inspired a whole range of theoretical and experimental developments and scholars from very diverse fields, from economics to physics. In that respect, Leigh Van Valen's contribution percolated far beyond its original formulation. Red Queen arms races are nowadays considered a widespread feature of complex adaptive systems.


Complexity; population dynamics; Red Queen; scales; coevolution; extinction


Biology and Life Sciences, Anatomy and Physiology

Comments (0)

We encourage comments and feedback from a broad range of readers. See criteria for comments and our Diversity statement.

Leave a public comment
Send a private comment to the author(s)
* All users must log in before leaving a comment
Views 0
Downloads 0
Comments 0
Metrics 0

Notify me about updates to this article or when a peer-reviewed version is published.
We use cookies on our website to ensure you get the best experience.
Read more about our cookies here.