Hamilton's indicators of the force of selection

Annette Baudisch*


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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.

TidsskriftProceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America
Udgave nummer23
Sider (fra-til)8263-8
Antal sider6
StatusUdgivet - 7. jun. 2005
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • Aging
  • Biological Evolution
  • Fertility
  • Longevity
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Reproduction
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Survival Rate


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