The holobiont as a unit of selection thumbnail

The holobiont as a unit of selection

by Scott F Gilbert


In our recent paper published in Biological Theory, we present compelling evidence that the holobiont is a unit of evolutionary selection, and we propose a new mathematical model to help us understand its evolution. But first, what is a holobiont? A holobiont is a large organism (a “macrobiont,” such as an animal, fungus, or plant)

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Completing Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: A TVOL conversation with Kevin Laland thumbnail

Completing Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: A TVOL conversation with Kevin Laland

by David Sloan Wilson & Kevin N Laland


These are exciting times for the study of cultural evolution, with important books appearing regularly. One of these is Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind, by Kevin N Laland, which won the British Psychological Society’s prize for the best academic book of 2017. Kevin has been featured several times on TVOL as a leading

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The philosophy of social evolution

by Jonathan Birch


To coincide with the publication of his latest book, The Philosophy of Social Evolution, philosopher Jonathan Birch is this week’s guest blogger on The Brains Blog. Read his series of posts below.     Part 1. Altruism in nature Part 2. Relatedness and altruism Part 3. Relatedness, time and bacteria Part 4. The social organism

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What functional ectopic compound eyes can teach us about the role of context in development and evolution thumbnail

What functional ectopic compound eyes can teach us about the role of context in development and evolution

by Eduardo Zattara & Armin Moczek


Organisms are mosaics of diverse traits. Some of these, such as eyes, limbs, or light producing organs, attain a remarkable level of complexity: each is comprised of a large number of component parts that relate to each other through often intricate and precise interactions, most if not all of these being required for the trait

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Developmental niche construction in dung beetles thumbnail

Developmental niche construction in dung beetles

by Daniel Schwab, Sofia Casasa & Armin Moczek


Understanding the extraordinary fit between organisms and their environments, or the nature of adaptation, is a long-standing focus of evolutionary biology. Traditionally, evolutionary biologists have focused on two routes to adaptation: organisms may adjust their phenotypes developmentally during their lifetimes through phenotypic plasticity, or across generations through evolved genetic changes in phenotype expression. A growing

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Research project 10: Host adaptation via change in its microbiome thumbnail

Research project 10: Host adaptation via change in its microbiome

by Marc W Feldman & Oren Kolodny


There has been growing awareness of the importance of studying the holobiome – the eukaryote organism with its microbiome – for the understanding of eukaryote evolution1-6. The holobiont complex is a system that flexibly self-assembles through reciprocal interactions between the organisms that participate in it, at multiple time scales6-8. To understand the evolutionary forces acting

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How do living beings fulfil the conditions for evolution by natural selection? thumbnail

How do living beings fulfil the conditions for evolution by natural selection?

by Tobias Uller & Heikki Helanterä


Have you ever wondered why there is such intense disagreement over the evolutionary significance of niche construction? If so, you may be helped by a recent paper in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. The paper shows how contention arises from alternative assumptions regarding the causal independence of the processes that generate variation,

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An unconventional place for unconventional science thumbnail

An unconventional place for unconventional science

by Wim Hordijk


Earlier this year, the inaugural workshop of the EES Project was held at the Konrad Lorenz Institute (KLI) in Austria. The KLI is a private and independent research institute with a focus on the development and evolution of biological and cultural complexity. Housed in a beautiful baroque building in the medieval town of Klosterneuburg, it offers a

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A new evolutionary cause, and some implications thumbnail

A new evolutionary cause, and some implications

by Arlin Stoltzfus


In a critique of various “misconceptions” about evolution, Lynch (2007) states that evo-devo and other fields have not introduced any new population-genetic principles, nor overturned existing ones. That sounds a bit unfair. Advocates of evo-devo typically don’t offer novel population-genetic causes (and if they did, wouldn’t Lynch simply claim them on behalf of population genetics?).

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Understanding the role of plasticity in evolution thumbnail

Understanding the role of plasticity in evolution

by Alfredo Rago


No modern-day biologist doubts that the development, physiology and behaviour of living beings are influenced by their environment. Plasticity is everywhere and, in many instances, it has clearly been shaped by natural selection. Plastic responses can be sophisticated strategies for survival and reproduction, but the same could be said for every adaptive feature of living

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