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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’.
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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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