Price's equation made clear

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Abstract

Price's equation provides a very simple—and very general—encapsulation of evolutionary change. It forms the mathematical foundations of several topics in evolutionary biology, and has also been applied outwith evolutionary biology to a wide range of other scientific disciplines. However, the equation's combination of simplicity and generality has led to a number of misapprehensions as to what it is saying and how it is supposed to be used. Here, I give a simple account of what Price's equation is, how it is derived, what it is saying and why this is useful. In particular, I suggest that Price's equation is useful not primarily as a predictor of evolutionary change but because it provides a general theory of selection. As an illustration, I discuss some of the insights Price's equation has brought to the study of social evolution.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Fifty years of the Price equation’.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20190361
Number of pages7
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume375
Issue number1797
Early online date9 Mar 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

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