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Environmentally guided phenotype plasticity in mammals and some of its consequences to theoretical and applied biology

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Part of the Perspectives in vertebrate science book series (PIVS,volume 6)

Synopsis

In large mammals extremes in resource availability generate extremes in phenotype development (intraspecific). These are adaptive, and can be related to opportunities inherent in natural situations with high and low resource availability. It is as if the genome and environment were linked via the phenotype into a system of information flow, and the genome explores the environment through the phenotype and shapes it adaptively. No mechanism of gene-environment communication can as yet be defined. This concept applied to mammalian evolution allows one to explain how new body types evolve between latitudes. It explains hypermorphic giants and paedomorphic dwarfs; it links the evolution of new forms to dispersal and correctly predicts the direction of evolution on the basis of latitudinal resource availability; it predicts long species longevity, but low speciation rates for species that specialize in opportunism, but high rates in specialists in competition. Neither the ‘punctuated equilibrium model’ nor the ‘gradualism model’ are tenable. There is no single mode of speciation as at least five different modes can be identified. The phenotype theory, used for decades in a simpler form in agriculture and wildlife management, allows one also to develop a scientific theory of health.

Key words

  • Speciation
  • Evolution
  • Health
  • Punctuated equilibrium
  • Gradualism
  • Population quality

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Geist, V. (1989). Environmentally guided phenotype plasticity in mammals and some of its consequences to theoretical and applied biology. In: Bruton, M.N. (eds) Alternative Life-History Styles of Animals. Perspectives in vertebrate science, vol 6. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-2605-9_8

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