In terms of Sober's selection of/selection for distinction, is it appropriate to say that there was selection of or selection for an allele that evolved by hitchhiking? I am inclined to say selection of. Is that correct?

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    $\begingroup$ I never remember which is which in Sober's terms and I have a hard time finding a reference that would clarify that for me as they are behind paywalls. Would you mind quoting the definitions of "selection for" and "selection of" in your post? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Sep 30, 2018 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ That's a good question and I don't know the answer because they are discussed in Sober's 1984 book, The Nature of Selection, but I do not have access at the moment. $\endgroup$
    – sterid
    Sep 30, 2018 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ So, your primary question is not so much about hitchhiking but rather about the terminology of Sober. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Oct 1, 2018 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose so. Hitchhiking in terms of the terminology of Sober. $\endgroup$
    – sterid
    Oct 2, 2018 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


The expressions "selection for" and "selection of", their definitions and their usage have been subject to a number of semantic issues throughout the literature. Good and Griffith (1995) is a good read on the subject.

I would argue that neither "selection for" or "selection of" is appropriate to use in the context of genetic hitchhiking because, in this context, by definition, the increase in frequency of an allele is only due to a different locus nearby that is under selection. So an allele that evolves due to hitchhiking is not directly under selection and only changes frequency indirectly due to nearby selection on a linked site.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you please clearly define the terms "selection of" and "selection for" so that we can understand why you consider these terms poorly apply to the case of genetic hitchhiking (or of linked selection to be more general). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Oct 21, 2018 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, sorry! This paper is helpful. I think my disagreement is with the level of selection we are talking about. But I am happy to be corrected! From this reading, Sober's usage seems that "selection for" would be for the trait that improves fitness, while "selection of" would be some trait that necessarily is brought along (e.g. p9 discusses the polar bear). For an allele, I would only say linked selection in order to prevent any misinterpretation of how selection acts at the genome level. $\endgroup$
    – Kim
    Oct 21, 2018 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Good and Griffith (1995) that you pointed out was a very helpful read for me. I edited (adding this paper into it among other things). Please feel free to roll back (or re-edit) if you don't like my edit. By the way... Welcome to Biology.SE! $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Oct 21, 2018 at 21:32

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