Evo-Devo and Niche Construction

Living reference work entry


Much thinking in evo-devo is dominated by a mindset that views traits and trait variants as emergent properties of genes and genomes, and environments as strictly external to and separable from the organisms that develop within them. Growing evidence accumulating across diverse fields is increasingly questioning the continued usefulness of this framework, resulting in calls for a more explicit recognition and integration of the interdependencies between development, environment, and phenotypic evolution. In the first section of this chapter, we review the ubiquitous and diverse roles that environmental conditions play in instructing developmental outcomes, as well as how failure to provide proper environmental signals can disrupt development or lead to the expression of novel phenotypic variants. In the second section, we discuss how the environmental conditions that organisms experience are often modified by the organisms themselves, how these interactions can reciprocally shape development, and how their study is best advanced within the context of niche construction theory. In the final section, we address how the integration of niche construction theory with five research programs central to evo-devo (i.e., evolutionary innovation and diversification, developmental bias, developmental plasticity, genetic accommodation, and inclusive inheritance) can lead to a more holistic and complete understanding of development and developmental evolution.


Ecological development Developmental plasticity Developmental bias Genetic accommodation Non-genetic inheritance 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sergio Balari
    • 1
  1. 1.Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Centre de Linguística TeòricaBarcelonaSpain

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