Fitness World

Fitness World is a central concept in evolutionary theory. It describes the capability of an individual of certain genotype to reproduce, and usually is equal to the proportion of the individual's genes in all the genes of the next generation. If differences in individual genotypes affect fitness, then the frequencies of the genotypes will change over generations; the genotypes with higher fitness become more common. This process is called natural selection.

An individual's fitness is manifested through its phenotype. As phenotype is affected by both genes and environment, the fitnesses of different individuals with the same genotype are not necessarily equal, but depend on the environment in which the individuals live. However, since the fitness of the genotype is an averaged quantity, it will reflect the reproductive outcomes of all individuals with that genotype.

As fitness measures the quantity of the copies of the genes of an individual in the next generation, it doesn't really matter how the genes arrive in the next generation. That is, for an individual it is equally "beneficial" to reproduce itself, or to help relatives with similar genes to reproduce, as long as similar amount of copies of individual's genes get passed on to the next generation. Selection which promotes this kind of helper behavior is called kin selection.

The concept is particularly difficult to understand and frequently misunderstood; J.B.S. Haldane when discussing it with John Maynard Smith is reported to have described it as "a bugger".