Biology & Philosophy

, 23:673 | Cite as

Whither adaptation?

  • Andrew P. HendryEmail author
  • Andrew Gonzalez


The two authors of this paper have diametrically opposed views of the prevalence and strength of adaptation in nature. Hendry believes that adaptation can be seen almost everywhere and that evidence for it is overwhelming and ubiquitous. Gonzalez believes that adaptation is uncommon and that evidence for it is ambiguous at best. Neither author is certifiable to the knowledge of the other, leaving each to wonder where the other has his head buried. Extensive argument has revealed that each author thinks his own view is amply supported by both theory and empirical evidence. Further reflection has revealed that the differences in opinion may start with the different disciplines in which we work: evolutionary ecology for Hendry and community ecology for Gonzalez. In the present paper, we each present devastating evidence supporting our own position and thus refuting that of the other. We then identify the critical differences that led to such opposing views. We close by combining our two perspectives into a common framework based on the adaptive landscape, and thereby suggest means by which to assess the prevalence and strength of adaptation.


Adaptive divergence Adaptive radiation Adaptive landscape Contemporary evolution Ecological speciation Source–sink dynamics Metapopulation Metacommunities Coevolution Gene flow Constraint 



The motivation for this paper was a multi-day argument between Hendry and Gonzalez whilst teaching in a McGill University field course at the Gault Nature Reserve in Québec, Canada. Our fellow teachers, Irene Gregory-Eaves and Gregor Fussmann, happily added fuel to the fire. Additional helpful comments were provided by Graham Bell, Bernie Crespi, Michel Loreau, Joe Hereford, Gene Hunt, Dolph Schluter, and members of the Hendry lab.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Redpath Museum and Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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