Is social transmission a forgotten force in coevolution? thumbnail

Is social transmission a forgotten force in coevolution?

by Rose Thorogood


During the last decade it has become impossible to ignore that social transmission of information occurs across the animal kingdom:1 humans and non-human animals alike learn by observing others. An explosion of studies demonstrate that species as diverse as Drosophila fruit flies to humpback whales either copy the behavior of others, or use it to

read more
United fronts: Unity, organization, and syntheses in the life sciences thumbnail

United fronts: Unity, organization, and syntheses in the life sciences

by Andrew Buskell


In his book Consilience, E.O. Wilson described science as he saw it: one moving ever closer to shared agreement on theories, principles, concepts, and standards of evidence. For Wilson, the indications that science was unifying were obvious; “disciplinary boundaries within the natural sciences are disappearing, to be replaced by shifting hybrid domains in which consilience

read more
The variational ratchet: Intuiting the variational approach to niche construction thumbnail

The variational ratchet: Intuiting the variational approach to niche construction

by Axel Constant & Karl J Friston


The principle of evolution by natural selection provides a solid conceptual tool to understand adaptive design. It operates like a ratchet, to retain and build upon functional variation. Pull down, ‘click’! Variation. Hold tight, lock it! Retention and differential fitness. Push up! Inheritance, and ratchet your way up towards peaks in the adaptive landscape. As

read more
Pleiotropy allows the evolutionary maintenance of positive niche construction in the face of free-riders thumbnail

Pleiotropy allows the evolutionary maintenance of positive niche construction in the face of free-riders

by Mark M Tanaka


In our paper published recently in American Naturalist, we used mathematical models to help us understand how positive niche construction can be maintained. Many animals, plants and other organisms engage in niche construction, that is, they modify the environment and the subsequent selective pressures to which they are exposed. Positive niche construction occurs when organisms

read more
What’s hiding in Waddington’s epigenetic landscape? A case study in baby cichlids thumbnail

What’s hiding in Waddington’s epigenetic landscape? A case study in baby cichlids

by Karina Vanadzina


In his 1957 book entitled The Strategy of the Genes, British scientist Conrad Hal Waddington noted that the genetic sequence does not map directly onto the phenotype we can observe in nature. Contrary to the gene-centric views held by many of his contemporaries, Waddington emphasised that phenotypes ultimately depend on the interaction between genes and

read more
Behavioral and developmental plasticity enable dung beetles to cope with temperature stress within and across generations thumbnail

Behavioral and developmental plasticity enable dung beetles to cope with temperature stress within and across generations

by Anna LM Macagno, Eduardo E Zattara, Armin P Moczek & Cris C Ledón-Rettig


While the climate is changing in complex patterns around our planet, there is strong consensus that global average temperatures are rapidly on the rise. Global climate change forces organisms to either cope with changing temperature regimes in their native habitats, or to face extinction. Furthermore, the resulting environmental changes can cause many areas to become

read more
Rapid evolution and phenotypic plasticity: insights from horned beetles thumbnail

Rapid evolution and phenotypic plasticity: insights from horned beetles

by Sofia Casasa & Armin P Moczek


All organisms face the challenge of having to cope with variable environments. Diverse factors, from food and water availability to temperature, predation pressures, or conspecific densities, may impact an organism’s development, survival, and reproduction. Phenotypic plasticity is one mechanism that allows individuals to cope with variable environmental conditions within their life time, and most organisms

read more
Coral reefs and niche construction: quantifying patterns thumbnail

Coral reefs and niche construction: quantifying patterns

by Viviana Brambilla


Coral reefs are one of the most biodiverse and threatened ecosystems in the world. Scleractinian corals act as ecosystem engineers and build the three-dimensional framework that provides shelter and food for themselves and all the other species that inhabit the reef. They are characterised by high diversity in terms of species, growth forms and demographic

read more
“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part III thumbnail

“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part III

by Erik L Peterson


Question 3: Why didn’t Waddington’s attempts fix the division?   Answer 3: It’s complicated, but two factors jump out.   I devoted chapters of a book to this question, so forgive me for not doing it justice here. I want to focus just on two important reasons. The first is that Waddington and epigenetics became

read more
“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part II thumbnail

“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part II

by Erik L Peterson


Question 2: How did biologists attempt to mend the split between development and inheritance in the past?   Answer 2: Morgan (1934) and Waddington (1940).   T. H. Morgan’s 1934 book Embryology & Genetics was an important first attempt to close the development-inheritance divide. Morgan blamed the split on vitalism and Hans Spemann’s “organizer” work.

read more

Back to top