Genetic conflicts in human pregnancy

Published on October 1, 2007 Reviewed on August 31, 2016   43 min

Other Talks in the Series: Evolution and Medicine

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Hello, this is David Haig talking on genetic conflicts in human pregnancy. Pregnancy has traditionally been viewed as a cooperative enterprise between a mother and fetus. Recent evolutionary theory has shown that there are also aspects of conflict, as well as cooperation. To understand how conflict arises during maternal-fetal relations,
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one needs to understand that maternal provisioning of a fetus is associated with what economists call an opportunity cost. That is, resources and time committed to one offspring are unavailable for other maternal activities. These opportunity costs ultimately translate into lower expected fitness of the mother, through other offspring. I would like you to consider
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the consequences of a mutation causing extra resources to be transferred to an embryo. These extra resources have a direct benefit to the embryo receiving them and the embryo's expected fitness increases. However there is an indirect cost to the mother's expected fitness through other offspring.