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Title: Life in space
Author: Levin, Samuel
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 4204
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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For nearly half a century, inclusive fitness theory has formed a bedrock of whole-organism biology. It has helped explain social behaviours across the tree of life, including, via the major transitions view of evolution, the history of life itself. However, some significant questions remain. In this thesis, I consider challenges at the frontiers of inclusive fitness, in time, theory, and space. Specifically: (i) I study the evolution of cooperation early in the history of life. I develop models of simple molecular replicators, resolving previously puzzling results and identifying important life-history features of replicators for cooperation. (ii) I use kin selection models to develop a framework for understanding RNA cooperation and guiding empirical work on the origins of life. (iii) I develop and test a new hypothesis for the origin of the genome, the first major transition in individuality. (iv) I address criticisms of inclusive fitness theory, developing conceptual arguments for why it is a useful tool despite its flaws. (v) I show that recent mathematical criticisms of inclusive fitness misapplied inclusive fitness, and extend their models, recovering inclusive fitness maximisation. I provide formal arguments for a broader range of the theory's application than previously thought by some mathematical biologists. (vi) I show that a recent paper about the effects of divorce on honest signalling in birds miscalculated inclusive fitness, and develop a formal model that predicts an effect of inclusive fitness on signalling in birds, which is supported by the data. (vii) Finally, I consider the universality of natural selection and major transitions in individuality, demonstrating how evolutionary theory can be used as a powerful tool in astrobiology. As a whole, this body of work extends the range of inclusive fitness theory's application earlier in evolutionary time, to a wider range of biological scenarios, and further in space.
Supervisor: West, Stuart Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; Natural Environment Research Council ; Hertford College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available