"Using a mathematical model, we've shown this is more successful than the alternative approach of adjusting behaviour to current conditions when the environment changes a bit, but not too much, between generations, and where there is a choice of both good and bad places to be.
"When you try to adapt to your environment, you can make mistakes which could prove costly or even fatal. Also, this approach may require a lot of time and effort which again could limit the success it brings on an evolutionary basis."
This conclusion explains some of the seemingly impractical lifestyles seen in nature. For example, many sea turtles return to the same beach they were born on to lay their eggs, even though they swim past perfectly good beaches on the way.
While this may not seem like an efficient strategy, in the right conditions it can be a successful way of ensuring the long-term survival of your 'selfish' genes.
Dr Dall said: "This may not seem very smart, but those turtles are actually sticking to the safest bet there could be the spot where they know their parents successfully gave birth to them.
"We're not saying that this works for every species or all of the time, but it does shed a bit of light on this interesting area of animal behaviour and evolutionary biology."
|Contact: Daniel Williams|
University of Exeter