Pathogens as Causes of Genetic Diversity in their Host Populations

  • W. D. Hamilton
Part of the Dahlem Workshop Reports book series (DAHLEM, volume 25)


Sex is likely to be an adaptation that enables large multicellular long-lived organisms to resist exploitation by specialized smaller shorter-lived organisms — that is, by parasites/pathogens. Antagonistic coadaptation of genotypes between such species tends to entrain limit cycles or else repeating and largely nonprogressive situations of counter-transience of new defense and attack alleles. Models on these lines can account for (a) correlation of stable sexual reproduction with size and longevity and with biotic complexity of habitat, (b) abundance of protein polymorphism, (c) diversity of adaptive linkage values, (d) common linkage disequilibria in multi-locus genotypes, and (e) “good genes” mate choice and the excesses of sexual selection. Through parasites, frequency-dependent selection may account for much more variation than has been credited while immediate heterozygote advantage may account for much less. Through frequency-dependent selection, polymorphism based even on generally concave fitness profiles may be common.


Sexual Selection Mate Choice Static Cost Fitness Profile Protein Polymorphism 
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Copyright information

© D. Bernhard, Dahlem Konferenzen, Berlin 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. D. Hamilton
    • 1
  1. 1.Museum of Zoology and Biological SciencesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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