Queller’s research interests include evolutionary biology, particularly the evolution of social interactions: the evolution of altruistic behavior, parent-offspring conflict; conflict and cooperation in social insects and social amoebae; mating systems and sexual selection in plants and animals; applications of population genetic and quantitative genetic methods in these areas.
Genes inherited from mothers (matrigenes) and fathers (patrigenes) usually work harmoniously in the offspring. However, kin selection theory predicts these genes may be in conflict in interactions among relatives in which they are unequally represented (half-siblings). In honey bees, patrigenes are predicted to favor daughters that lay eggs themselves rather than remaining sterile and rearing their half-sisters’ offspring. An experimental test bears out this prediction.
What is it with cheating? Cheaters seem to have an immediate advantage over cooperators, but do they have an evolutionary advantage? A study published in Current Biology suggests the benefits of cheating change with its prevalence,in a population. Cheaters may succeed, for example, only when they are rare, and fail when they become so numerous they push out cooperators.
The outcome of a duel between mathematical models supports the reigning theory of the genetics of altruism. Called inclusive fitness, it says altruism is competitive if it benefits relatives carrying the same gene as the selfless individual. Attacked by a Nature article published in 2010, it is defended by Washington University evolutionary biologist David Queller.
Biology researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are placing their bets on the wild side as they prepare a pack of social amoeba for competition Friday, May 16, in the first-ever Dicty World Race, an international science competition that carries a $5,000 prize for the single-celled organism deemed to be the “smartest and fastest” in negotiating a microscopic maze.