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Williams' 1957 paper Pleiotropy, Natural Selection, and the Evolution of Senescence is one of the most influential in 20th century evolutionary biology, and contains at least 3 foundational ideas. The central hypothesis of antagonistic pleiotropy remains the prevailing evolutionary explanation of senescence. In this paper Williams was also the first to propose that senescence should be generally synchronized by natural selection. According to this original formulation
if the adverse genic effects appeared earlier in one system than any other, they would be removed by selection from that system more readily than from any other. In other words, natural selection will always be in greatest opposition to the decline of the most senescence-prone system.
This important concept of synchrony of senescence was taken up a short time later by John Maynard Smith, and the origin of the idea is often misattributed to him, including in his obituary in the journal Nature. Finally, Williams' 1957 paper was the first to outline the "grandmother hypothesis". William's formulation stated that natural selection might select for menopause and post-reproductive life in females (though not explicitly mentioning grandchildren or the inclusive fitness contribution of grand-parenting).
In his first book, Adaptation and Natural Selection, Williams advocated a "ground rule - or perhaps doctrine would be a better term - ... that adaptation is a special and onerous concept that should only be used where it is really necessary", and, that, when it is necessary, selection among genes or individuals would in general be the preferable explanation for it. He elaborated this view in later books and papers, which contributed to the development of a gene-centered view of evolution; Richard Dawkins built on Williams' ideas in this area in the book The Selfish Gene.
In later books, including Natural Selection: Domains, Levels and Challenges, Williams softened his views on group selection, recognizing that clade selection, trait group selection and multilevel selection did sometimes occur in nature, something he had earlier thought to be so unlikely it could be safely ignored.
Williams became convinced that the genic neo-Darwinism of his earlier years, while essentially correct as a theory of microevolutionary change, could not account for evolutionary phenomena over longer time scales, and was thus an "utterly inadequate account of the evolution of the Earth's biota" (1992, p. 31). In particular, he became a staunch advocate of clade selection - a generalisation of species selection to monophyletic clades of any rank - which could potentially explain phenomena such as adaptive radiations, long-term phylogenetic trends, and biases in rates of speciation/extinction. In Natural Selection (1992), Williams argued that these phenomena cannot be explained by selectively-driven allele substitutions within populations, the evolutionary mechanism he had originally championed over all others. This book thus represents a substantial departure from the position of Adaptation and Natural Selection.
Williams, G.C. 1975. Sex and Evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Paradis, J. and G.C. Williams. 1989. T.H. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics : with New Essays on its Victorian and Sociobiological Context. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Williams, G.C. 1992. Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges. Oxford University Press, New York.
Nesse, R.M. and G.C. Williams. 1994. Why We Get Sick : the New Science of Darwinian Medicine. Times Books, New York.
Williams, G.C. 1996. Plan and Purpose in Nature. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London (published in the U.S. in 1997 as The Pony Fish's Glow : and Other Clues to Plan and Purpose in Nature. Basic Books, New York).
Williams, G. C. (1957). "Pleiotropy, natural selection, and the evolution of senescence". Evolution. 11 (4): 398-411. doi:10.2307/2406060. JSTOR2406060.
Williams, G. C.; Williams, D. C. (1957). "Natural selection of individually harmful social adaptations among sibs with special reference to social insects". Evolution. 11 (1): 32-39. doi:10.2307/2405809. JSTOR2405809.
Williams, G. C. (1966). "Natural selection, the costs of reproduction, and a refinement of Lack's principle". The American Naturalist. 100 (916): 687-690. doi:10.1086/282461. JSTOR2459305.
Hrdy, S. B.; Williams, G. C. (1983). "Behavioral biology and double standard". In Wasser, S. K. (ed.). Social Behavior of Female Vertebrates. New York, United States: Academic Press. pp. 3-17. ISBN9780124313415.
Taylor, P. O.; Williams, G. C. (1984). "Demographic parameters at evolutionary equilibrium". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 62 (11): 2264-2271. doi:10.1139/z84-329.
Williams, G. C. (1985). "A defense of reductionism in evolutionary biology". In Dawkins, R.; Ridley, M. (eds.). Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology: Volume 2. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-27. ISBN9780198541745.