Experimental studies of group selection: what do they tell us about group selection in nature?

Am Nat. 1997 Jul;150 Suppl 1:S59-79. doi: 10.1086/286050.


The study of group selection has developed along two autonomous lines. One approach, which we refer to as the adaptationist school, seeks to understand the evolution of existing traits by examining plausible mechanisms for their evolution and persistence. The other approach, which we refer to as the genetic school, seeks to examine how currently acting artificial or natural selection changes traits within populations and focuses on current evolutionary change. The levels of selection debate lies mainly within the adaptationist school, whereas the experimental studies of group selection lie within the genetic school. Because of the very different traditions and goals of these two schools, the experimental studies of group selection have not had a major impact on the group selection debate. We review the experimental results of the genetic school in the context of the group selection controversy and address the following questions: Under what conditions is group selection effective? What is the genetic basis of a response to group selection? How common is group selection in nature?