In Artificial Life 11 (4): 427 - 443, special issue on Dynamical Hierarchies, December 2005.
The opportunistic character of adaptation through natural selection can lead to `evolutionary pathologies' — situations in which traits evolve that promote the extinction of the population. Such pathologies include imprudent predation and other forms of habitat over-exploitation or the `tragedy of the commons', adaptation to temporally unreliable resources, cheating and other antisocial behavior, infectious pathogen carrier states, parthenogenesis, and cancer, an intra-organismal evolutionary pathology. It is known that hierarchical population dynamics can protect a population from invasion by pathological genes. Can it also alter the genotype so as to prevent the generation of such genes in the first place, i.e. suppress the evolvability of evolutionary pathologies? A model is constructed in which one locus controls the expression of the pathological trait, and a series of modifier loci exist which can prevent the expression of this trait. It is found that multiple `evolvability checkpoint' genes can evolve to prevent the generation of variants that cause evolutionary pathologies. The consequences of this finding are discussed.
“The role of constraints introduced by second-order selection, such as the one we exemplified here, in assuring the best long-term outcomes has been proposed before in a more general and abstract context [Altenberg, 2005].”—Frenoy, A., Taddei, F., & Misevic, D. (2013). Genetic Architecture Promotes the Evolution and Maintenance of Cooperation. PLoS computational biology, 9(11), e1003339.
“The modeling exercises above pose the question of what maintains the outcrossing state in hermaphroditic plants when individual selection favors the evolution of selfing. We have seen one possibility is that group-level selection in a metapopulation may bring about the evolution of reduced transition rates from outcrossing to selfing. This result is a specific example of the more general finding that group-level selection, if sufficiently strong to counteract individual selection, may favor the suppression of ‘evolutionary pathologies’ (traits that threaten the survival of the group, e.g., imprudent predation, habitat overuse) by reducing the evolvability of such traits (Altenberg 2005).”—Schoen, D. J., & Busch, J. W. (2008). On the evolution of self-fertilization in a metapopulation. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 169(1), 119-127.
“Second, it is by no means clear that an enhanced ability to evolve is generally advantageous. The dynamics of genetic variance for quantitative traits is complex, with selection modifying allele frequencies at epistatically interacting loci in ways that can either increase or decrease heritabilities, regardless of the advantage of the traits under selection (Carter et al. 2005). In addition, one can just as easily point to a long list of pathologies that can arise from an overly rapid proliferation of a new phenotype, and such scenarios have motivated a completely alternative, and equally speculative, view, that selection can favor mechanisms that suppress evolvability (Altenberg, 2005).”—Lynch, M. (2007). The frailty of adaptive hypotheses for the origins of organismal complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(Suppl 1), 8597-8604.