Choice of the name of the child and the breed of the dog resembles natural selection

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have found common patterns in the choice of the name of the baby, breed of dog and the accumulation of certain genes in the population under the influence of frequency-dependent selection.

Like the prevalence of genotypes in a population, the frequency of names and breeds declines sharply after the peak of popularity.

Scientists from the University of Michigan (USA) have traced certain patterns in how parents choose names for their children. It turned out that the more popular a name becomes, the more likely it is to go out of fashion soon.

The same goes for dog breeds. In addition, the identified trends will help to better understand ecological and evolutionary changes.

The researchers compared them to natural selection: names and breeds in this case are analogous to genes and organisms that carry them, competing for resources served by the imagination of parents and dog breeders.

One type of natural selection is frequency-dependent, in which the fitness of a genotype depends on its frequency relative to other genotypes in the population. Likewise, the trend of choosing a particular name depends on its current popularity. People are losing interest in overly popular names and this provides a wide variety of options.

Natural selection is difficult to quantify, but scientists have databases of baby names. The authors of the new study analyzed the Social Security Administration’s database of names of children born since 1935.

In the US, the name Emma peaked in popularity in the late 1800s and fell out of fashion in the first half of the 1900s, only to become one of the most common names again in the early 2000s.

Linda’s name peaked in popularity in the late 1940s, and Daniel’s in the mid-1980s. However, each rise was followed by an equally sharp fall.

It turned out that the rarest names – one in 10 thousand – are becoming more popular by an average of 1.4% annually. At the same time, the most frequent names – more than one in 100 – lose popularity by an average of 1.6% per year.

Using the same methods, the researchers examined the American Kennel Club’s database of purebred dog registrations.

They, again, found boom-bust cycles in the popularity of dog breeds. So, in the 1940s, greyhounds came into fashion, and in the 1990s, Rottweilers. Rare breeds quickly gained popularity, while popular ones, on the contrary, went out of fashion.

This type of selection is called negative frequency dependent. In populations of living organisms, it allows maintaining genetic diversity, unique immune systems, interactions between predators and prey, parasites and hosts.


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