The Red Queen Hypothesis


The Red Queen’s Hypothesis, (aka Red Queen, Red Queen’s race or Red Queen Effect), is an evolutionary hypothesis. First coined by biologist Leigh Van Valen in 1973, the term is taken from the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. The Red Queen said, “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”    In reference to an evolutionary system, the hypothesis states that “continuing adaptation is needed in order for a species to maintain its relative fitness amongst the systems being co-evolved with.”


The hypothesis explains two different phenomena: the advantage of sexual reproduction at the individual level, and the constant evolutionary arms race between competing species. In the first (microevolutionary) version, every individual can bee seen as an experiment when mixing mother’s and father’s genes. Sexual reproduction may allow a species to evolve quickly just to hold onto the ecological niche that it already occupies in the ecosystem. In the second (macroevolutionary) version, the probability of extinction for groups (usually families) of organisms is hypothesized to be constant within the group and random among groups.  (wiki)