Meeting Abstract

S8-2.4  Friday, Jan. 6  The nature of nurture and the causes of traits: toward a comprehensive theory of developmental evolution MOCZEK, Armin; Indiana University Bloomington

This presentation has three parts. First, I posit that much research in contemporary evolutionary and developmental biology, including efforts focused on developmental plasticity, remains steeped in a traditional framework that views traits and trait differences as being caused by genes and genetic variation, and the environment as providing an external context in which development and evolution unfold. Second, I discuss three attributes of organismal development and evolution, broadly applicable to all organisms and traits that call into question the usefulness of gene- and genome-centric views of development and evolution. I then focus on the third and main aim of this presentation and ask: what conceptual and empirical opportunities exist that would permit research in evodevo in general and developmental plasticity in particular to transcend traditional boundaries and to move toward the development of a more comprehensive and realistic theory of developmental evolution? Here, I focus on three conceptual frameworks, the theory of facilitated variation, the theory of evolution by genetic accommodation, and the theory of niche construction. I conclude that combined they provide a rich, interlocking framework within which to revise existing and develop novel empirical approaches toward a better understanding of the nature of developmental evolution. Examples of such approaches are highlighted, and the consequences of expanding existing frameworks are discussed.