This textbook is available Logo
Evolution 2nd Edition

Evolution (2nd Edition)

Book Edition2nd Edition
Author(s)Bergstrom, Dugatkin
PublisherW. W. Norton
Section 3.1: The Components of Natural Selection
Section 3.2: Adaptations
Section 3.4: Natural Selection in the Laboratory
Section 3.5: Origin of Complex Traits

Chapter 3, Section 3.1, KEY CONCEPT QUESTION, Exercise 3.1

Page 78


The cultural transmission [process by which the people present in the society gain knowledge and pass their learning and information to their progeny] can be operated by natural selection [a natural process through which beneficial traits are selected in the population for enhanced adaptability, survival, and reproductive success, over generations] if the following criteria are met:

  • For natural selection, the cultural traits [the characters of some activity related to behavior, technologies, or more that are gained via social learning and transmitted to future generations via communication] must show variations. For knowledge about culture, social learning is the key feature. Variation is the primary condition for the occurrence of natural selection; for instance, variation in case of farming techniques such as using modern techniques instead of animal ploughing, variation in singing such as transmission of different birdsongs has affected bird's non-random mating and even speciation. If these variations are not present, then natural selection cannot occur.
  •  For natural selection, the traits must be heritable. The cultural traits can be inherited by the next generation through learning and practice. For instance, the offspring [young orangutans] learn from their mother the ability to decipher which and what food to eat [foraging]. If some cultural traits are suitable for the society, then they are selected and transferred to the next generation.
  •  The third criterion for natural selection is fitness of trait. Certain cultural traits can be possibly fit as compared to other traits. If the individuals learn and gain knowledge about such fit traits, then it would increase the chances of their survival. For instance, the enhanced competence in behavior related to the ability to learn and find food for eating helps increase the fitness as well as the ability to reproduce in animals. Moreover, the social transmission of behavior such as the ability of recognizing and escaping predators [predator avoidance] in birds and animals helps to increase the ability to survive as well as reproduce. The transmission of such traits or information between organisms helps enhance selection pressure and thereby result in generation of phenotypic changes. 

Sample Response

For the transmission of a favorable trait via natural selection, the trait has to be heritable, variable, as well as fit for the environment. Cultural traits vary because of differences in cultural groups and information and can be transmitted to next generation with the help of learning and teaching. Moreover, some cultural traits that have greater fitness in comparison to others have greater tendency to be transmitted to next generation. 

How would you rate this answer and explanation?
Did you like this example?
Subscribe for full access
Page 78