VI. The term selfish DNA must not be confused with the terms selfish gene or ultraselfish gene.

The term selfish DNA, i.e. designation for DNA segments that proliferate in the gene pool through molecular drive, must not be confused with the similar, but totally unrelated, term selfish gene or the somewhat related term ultraselfish gene.The selfish gene is the central concept of Dawkin’s model of biological evolution (Dawkins 1976)This model, based on the theoretical work of W.D. Hamilton (Hamilton 1964a; Hamilton 1964b; Hamilton 1967), assumes that the objects of selection in evolution are not individuals, and certainly not populations or species, but only the alleles of the individual genes. From the viewpoint of this hypothesis, all genes are selfish or, to be more exact, all the alleles of all genes are selfish. Selfishness here means that every allele is “out for itself”. Only an allele that affects the properties of an organism so that it increases the probability that it will be replicated and transferred down to future generations more frequently that other alleles of the same gene can be successful in evolution. In most cases, a successful allele somehow increases the biological fitness of the individual in whose gene it is contained. Consequently, the selfishness of genes is not fully apparent at first glance. It might seem that alleles that bring an advantage to individuals are most successful in evolution.

            An ultraselfish gene is a gene or, to be more exact, an allele that, in order to increase the probability of its proliferation in the gene pool of the species, reduces the biological fitness of its bearers (see, for example, the bluebeard model in Section IV.9.1).

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The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more
Draft translation from: Evoluční biologie, 2. vydání (Evolutionary biology, 2nd edition), J. Flegr, Academia Prague 2009. The translation was not done by biologist, therefore any suggestion concerning proper scientific terminology and language usage are highly welcomed. You can send your comments to flegratcesnet [dot] cz. Thank you.