Evolution of Sex and the Red Queen Hypothesis

QUESTION: Evolution of Sex and the Red Queen Hypothesis


The Red Queen Hypothesis is a concept first suggested by Leigh Van Valen in an article entitled “A New Evolutionary Law” in Evolutionary Theory. He suggested that the probability of organisms becoming extinct bears no relationship to how long they already may have survived.

To quote John Cartwright’s Evolution and Human Behavior, “It is a sobering thought that the struggle for existence never gets any easier; however well adapted an animal may become, it still has the same chance of extinction as a newly formed species.”

The Red Queen Hypothesis is named after the character in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass who took Alice on a lengthy run that actually went nowhere. As the Queen said to Alice, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” In other words, an animal must constantly run the genetic gauntlet of being able to chase its prey, ward off predators and resist infectious diseases, in order to survive.

Evolution of Sex and the red queen hypothesis - The Chief Favorite
In the world of the Red Queen, organisms have to run fast just to stay still, never mind improve -- and the development of sex would be one way of accomplishing that. Yet doing so provides no automatic guarantee of winning the ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ struggle. Currently, the Red Queen Hypothesis seems to be the chief favorite of evolutionists in attempting to explain the reason for sex.

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