A model is described of a highly redundant complex organism that has overlapping banks of genes such that each vital function is specified by several different genetic systems. This generates a synergistic profile linking probability of survival to the number of deleterious mutations in the genome. Computer models show that there is a dynamic interaction between the mean number of new deleterious mutations per generation (X), the mean number of deleterious mutations in the genome of the population (Y) and percentage zygote survival (Zs). IncreasedX leads to increasedY and a fall in Zs but it takes several generations before a new equilibrium is reached. If sexual attraction is influenced by the number of deleterious mutations in the genome of individuals thenY is reduced and Zs increased for any given value ofX. This fall inY and rise in Zs is more marked in polygamous than monogamous mating systems. The model is specified such that deleterious mutations can occur without any observable or measurable effect on function. Thus sexual selection, in this organism, for low levels of deleterious mutations cannot be based on assessment of performance. Instead it is based on a simple symmetrical surface pattern that is flawlessly reproduced by organisms with no deleterious mutations, but is less than perfect, and therefore less attractive, if genetic systems have been deleted. A complex vital task requires a system with a high level of redundancy that acts so that the loss of one component has no observable effect and therefore cannot be used for sexual selection. The reproduction of a beautiful surface pattern also requires a low error, high redundancy genetic system; however, in this case there is advantage if a single deleterious mutation produces a recognisable change. This leads to the conclusion that sexual selection and sexual attraction should be based on beauty rather than utility, and explains the common observation in nature that it is the most beautiful that survive.
Volume 44 | Issue 5
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