Monday, September 03, 2012

Do evolutionary strategies evolve?

Biologists study evolutionary "strategies", such as r and K selection.

These are the strategies deployed the Great Programmer as she fiddles with the game states of the multiver... erkkk. Just kidding. These are, of course, human terms for the emergent phenomena of natural selection.

At a more granular level, a predator's niche might be contested on the basis of bigger teeth, stronger claws, faster moves, greater endurance, or bigger brains.

Likewise, microbes, who rule the earth, have a range of "strategies". Symbiosis, parasitism, fast reproduction, encysting and so on.

Presumably the catalog of strategies changes over time. Before there were teeth, big teeth strategies were not available.

Before there were neurons, big brain strategies didn't work.

So that leads to the obvious question, do evolutionary strategies evolve? That is, do new strategies emerge from variations of strategies such that the strategies themselves are subject to selection pressure (a sort of meta-selection I suppose)?

Seems an obvious question, but as of Sept 2012 Google has 9 hits on that precise phrase, none by biologists.

So I guess it's an obvious question, but maybe obviously dumb. I'm surprised though that I didn't find a blog post explaining why it's dumb.

(A bit of context, this came up in a discussion with my 13yo about what species would fill our ecological niche (global multicellular apex predator). Having hit upon the strategy of investing in brains, would natural selection keep returning to the theme?)

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