Modern Evolutionary Theory Reading List

The following is a selection of interesting papers on the theory of evolutionary dynamics. One issue addressed is that of “levels of selection” in biological evolution. I have tried to arrange them in an order such that the earlier ones provide a good context for the ones listed later.

I’ve met, corresponded with and in a couple cases collaborated with authors of these papers, but I’ve had no input on writing or peer-reviewing any of them.

  • B. Allen and M. A. Nowak (2013), “Cooperation and the fate of microbial societiesPLOS Biology 11, 4: e1001549.
    This is an introductory overview of what can happen when ecological and evolutionary processes occur on comparable timescales and feed back upon one another. It summarizes recent experimental and model-building work on the topic, as realised in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
  • J. A. Damore and J. Gore (2012), “Understanding microbial cooperation” Journal of Theoretical Biology 299: 31–41, DOI:10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.03.008 (PDF). PMID:21419783.
    Next, get a grounding in the sorts of complications which arise with real organisms, even tiny ones, and to see how old mathematics isn’t enough for new questions. In video-game terminology, this is where we defeat the Level 1 boss, “relatedness.” Recommended with the proviso that writing the Price Equation using covariance notation, though common, can be misleading. This is mentioned in the text, but it deserves special emphasis.
  • B. Allen and C. E. Tarnita (2012), “Measures of success in a class of evolutionary models with fixed population size and structure” Journal of Mathematical Biology, DOI:10.1007/s00285-012-0622-x (PDF).
    This paper builds up in a nice way the treatment of evolution as a stochastic process. It is probably the most mathematical article on this list. The point made near the end about the way the Price Equation is often misleadingly written is an important one.
  • M. Perc et al. (2013), “Evolutionary dynamics of group interactions on structured populations: a review” Journal of the Royal Society Interface 10, 80: 20120997; DOI:10.1098/rsif.2012.0997.
    This review article covers what’s known about evolutionary games on complex network substrates, including adaptive networks. It also touches on nonlinearity in payoff functions, which takes us beyond the idea that “assortment” is everything. To continue the gaming metaphor, this is the boss fight of Level 2.
  • P. E. Smaldino, J. C. Schank and R. McElreath (2013), “Increased costs of cooperation help cooperators in the long run” American Naturalist 181, 4: 451–63, DOI:10.1086/669615 (PDF).
    One of many papers which points out the shortcomings of “moment closure” techniques, this also makes a key point about fitness being a question of timescale.
  • S. B. Araujo, G. M. Viswanathan and M. A. de Aguiar (2010), “Home range evolution and its implication in population outbreaks” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 368, 1933: 5661–77. DOI:10.1098/rsta.2010.0270, PMID:21078641.
    Pair approximations done carefully, with acknowledgements of their limitations, too.
  • B. Simon, J. A. Fletcher and M. Doebeli (2013), “Towards a general theory of group selection” Evolution 67, 6: 1561–72, DOI:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01835.x (PDF).
    The distinction between type I and type II multilevel selection is crucial, and often crucially overlooked. Simon, Fletcher and Doebeli build quantitative models of an MLS-2 scenario: there are explicit group-level dynamics, but the set of groups is unstructured.
  • B. Simon and A. Nielsen (2013), “Numerical solutions and animations of group selection dynamics” Evolutionary Ecology Research, 14: 757–68 (PDF).
    A follow-up to the previous paper.
  • P. Bijma and M. J. Wade (2008), “The joint effects of kin, multilevel selection and indirect genetic effects on response to genetic selection” Journal of Evolutionary Biology 21: 1175–88, DOI:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2008.01550.x.
    In the context of MLS-1 scenarios, and considering only generation-to-generation changes, ideas which sound very different when said in words are mathematically interconvertible, with only linear transformations of coordinates. I put this down here because of caveats about the distinction between MLS-1 and MLS-2, the terminology of “relatedness” versus “assortment” and the solecism of writing the Price Equation with covariances.

Last updated 24 June 2013.