As far as I understand, four-leaf clovers are caused by genetics, so when reproducing, they should produce four-leaved children. I haven't found any disadvantages of four-lead clovers (e.g., infertility or worse survival capabilities), so I wonder why four-leaf clovers are so rare. Do they have any competitive disadvantage that makes them less likely to reproduce?

  • $\begingroup$ Neutral selection could mean that the probability of fixation is simply very, very low... A complement to the question: based on a (non-quantitative) examination of photographs of four-leaf clovers among wild type clovers, it seems to me that the area of individual leaves is the same, meaning that four-leaf clovers could potentially be better at harvesting light (?) so I'd be curious to have an answer too $\endgroup$
    – Mowgli
    Jan 19, 2019 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that Neutral selection is a concept! Do you mean absence of selection (hence a probability of fixation of $\frac{1}{2N}$, where $N$ is the population size). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jan 19, 2019 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @v6ak As far as I understand, four-leaf clovers are caused by genetics After a quick look, it seems that the question of whether there is a genetic based to this phenotypic variation is not resolved. It might just be a rare phenotype caused by some developmental instability or specific micro-environmental conditions. Do you have any reason to think the opposite? Note that some clover can have five leaves. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jan 20, 2019 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ An allele does not need to be at a selective disadvantage in order to be rare. Using that logic, one could say that anything that does not exist would be at a selective disadvantage (as something cannot be more rare than if it does not exist). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jan 20, 2019 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't said that there must be some competitive disadvantage, just there might be some. And I am curious if there is some. $\endgroup$
    – v6ak
    Jan 20, 2019 at 15:49


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