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dual inheritance systemduales Vererbungssystem (ger.)

  • A system of inheritance in which two channels of transmission are combined, e.g. the transmission of traits via genetic and epigenetic mechanisms or genetic and cultural media.  

    [dual inheritance model of the conflict between social and biological evolution

    Boyd, R. & Richerson, P.J. (1976). A simple dual inheritance model of the conflict between social and biological evolution. Zygon 11, 254-262.]


    In the 1975 paper, Campbell also postulates an explicit conflict between genes and culture. He interprets the findings of sociobiology as precluding the existence of complex altruistic human societies and hypothesizes that group-level selection of culture opposes the individual selfishness favored by selection on genes. The main difficulty with this interpretation is that it leaps far past present theoretical and empirical understanding of dual inheritance systems.

    Boyd, R. & Richerson, P.J. (1978). A dual inheritance model of the human evolutionary process. J. Soc. Biol. Struct. 1, 127-154: 130-1.


    [First, we construct simple mathematical models of cultural transmission [...]. Second, we link these models of cultural transmission to models of genetic evolution and attempt to determine the circumstances under which natural selection might favor the modes of cultural transmission observed among contemporary humans. [...] We call the resulting collection of models the “dual inheritance theory” of the human evolutionary process to emphasize that the potentially novel effects of culture result from the fact that the determinants of behavior are assumed to be transmitted via two structurally different inheritance systems.

    Boyd, R. & Richerson, P.J. (1985). Culture and the Evolutionary Process: 2.]


    In higher plants, animals and fungi, there are two inheritance systems: the familiar system, depending on DNA sequence, used in transmitting information between sexual generations, and an epigenetic inheritance system, depending on gene activation, responsible for the transmission of states of differentiation during development. Occasionally, epigenetic changes are transmitted in sexual reproduction. A formal model of such a dual inheritance system is presented, and it is shown how the separation between the two systems can sometimes break down.

    Maynard Smith, J. (1990). Models of a dual inheritance system. J. theor. Biol. 143, 41-53: 41.