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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Profile: Selections from a life in social selection


Science is about theories and tests of theories, but it is not nearly as dry or as mechanical as that may seem to imply, especially in behavioural ecology. A life in science is also about career choices made, luck, interesting experiences and even fun. Here is a selection from my own career in studying social selection.

Wisest educational choice. Grad school at the University of Michigan. They had a policy of admitting the best students they could, and giving them time to find their advisors and research programme. I found Richard Alexander, though my first real interaction with him was when he thought I might have cribbed ideas for an essay I wrote for his class. Fortunately, as a good scientist, he could change his mind.

Luckiest educational choice. Grad school at the University of Michigan. Though I knew Alexander would be there, I did not know what an inspiring teacher he was. Nor did I know that he would be arranging semester-long visits, in my first three fall semesters at Michigan, by John Maynard Smith, Bill Hamilton and George Williams.

Favourite paper in grad school. Trivers' 1974 paper on parent–offspring conflict turned kin selection on its head by showing that it could describe conflict among relatives. Dick Alexander didn't think it could be true, but he changed his mind there too. This idea, when applied to social insects (first in Trivers & Hare 1976), made them much more interesting.

Dawkins, R. (1976) The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gould, S. J. & Lewontin, R. C. (1979) The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 205, 581–598.
Haig, D. (2000) The kinship theory of genomic imprinting. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 31, 9–32.
Queller, D. C. (1983) Sexual selection in a hermaphroditic plant. Nature, 305, 706–707.
Queller, D. C. (1995) The spaniels of St Marx and the Panglossian paradox: a critique of a rhetorical programme. Quarterly Review of Biology, 70, 485–489.
Queller, D. C. (2003) Theory of genomic imprinting conflict in social insects. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 3, 15.
Queller, D. C. & Goodnight, K. F. (1989) Estimating relatedness using genetic markers. Evolution, 43, 258–275.
Santorelli, L., Thompson, C., Villegas, al. (2008) Facultative cheater mutants reveal the genetic complexity of cooperation in social amoebae. Nature, 451, 1107–1110.
Strassmann, J. E., Zhu, Y. & Queller, D. C. (2000) Altruism and social cheating in the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum. Nature, 408, 965–967.
Trivers, R. L. (1974) Parent–offspring conflict. American Zoologist, 14, 249–264.
Trivers, R. L. & Hare, H. (1976) Haplodiploidy and the evolution of the social insects. Science, 191, 249–263.