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Fields such as behavioural and evolutionary ecology are built on the assumption that natural selection leads to organisms that behave as if they are trying to maximise their fitness. However, there is considerable evidence for selfish genetic elements that change the behaviour of individuals to increase their own transmission. How can we reconcile this contradiction? Here we show that: (1) when selfish genetic elements have a greater impact at the individual level, they are more likely to be suppressed, and suppression spreads more quickly; (2) selection on selfish genetic elements drives them towards a greater impact at the individual level, making them more likely to be suppressed; (3) the majority interest within the genome generally prevails over ‘cabals’ of a few genes, irrespective of genome size, mutation rate and the sophistication of trait distorters. Overall, our results suggest that even when there is the potential for considerable genetic conflict, this often has negligible impact at the individual level.


Journal article


Nature Communications


Nature Research (part of Springer Nature)

Publication Date



Thomas Scott, University of Oxford, Zoology, 11a Mansfield Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 3SZ, United Kingdom


Evolutionary Theory, Social Evolution, Population Genetics