Received February 13, 2012; Revision received February 22, 2012
The theory of adaptive senescence, or phenoptosis (“altruistic suicide” of the organism), implies that mutations enhancing mortality growth with age (“senescence genes”) can be favored by selection under some circumstances, although the nature of these circumstances and the frequency of their occurrence are not clear. Here I demonstrate by means of computer simulation that senescence genes can spread in the population’s gene pool via the mechanism of kin selection if two conditions are met. First, the population must have high viscosity (low intermixing), which provides positive correlation between spatial proximity of individuals and their relatedness, an important precondition for kin selection. Second, prior to acquisition of the senescence genes, there must be a sufficiently fast decline in the reproductive potential with age, while viability should decrease slower or remain constant. These conditions are probably met in some territorial and social species with severe competition for social rank and mating partners.
KEY WORDS: Hamilton’s rule, kin selection, phenoptosis, senescence, modeling