Red Queen Principle

redqueen“It takes all the running you can do, to stay in the same place”.

Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll

The Red Queen Hypothesis in biology states that species continually need to change to keep up with the competition. If a species would stop changing, it would lose the competition with the other species that do continue to change. If you take for example the relationship between a parasite and its host. Both the parasite and the host are involved in an arms race with each other. There is pressure on the host to evolve to become resistant to the parasite and there is pressure on the parasite to evolve ways to cope with the resistance of the host. Both species need to change genetically to keep up with the changes in the other species.

The Red Queen Principle is an important theory because it is used in explaining sexual reproduction, the importance of genetic diversity and the speed of evolution. From the Red Queen Principe follows that species are never “finished”, extinction probability does not increase with existence age of the species and the speed of genetic change over time is important for evolution and survival of species. Species with a quicker generation time will have the ability to evolve faster, giving them an advantage in an arms race. This calls for a mechanism to increase speed of evolution. Sexual reproduction is one way to increase evolution speed in a species, because it allows for new mutations to spread fast in the population and new combinations of alleles to occur faster. It is thought that species with long generation time have to have sexual reproduction to be able to stay in the race with species with a short generation time.

The Red Queen Hypothesis was formulated in 1973 by Leigh Van Valen.