The importance of selection at the level of the pair over 25 years in a natural population of birds



Knowledge of the pattern of selection in natural populations is fundamental for our understanding of the evolutionary process. Selection at higher levels has gained considerable theoretical support in recent years, and one possible level of selection is the breeding pair where fitness is a function of the pair and cannot be reduced to single individuals. We analyzed the importance of pair-level selection over 25 years in a natural population of the collared flycatcher. Pair-level selection was significant in five and probably in another 9 years. The relative importance of pair-level selection varied over years and can have stronger or the same strength as directional selection. This means that selection can act on the combination of the breeding pair in addition to selection on each individual separately. Overall, the conservative estimates obtained here show that this is a potentially important form of selection.