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Non-genetic Inheritance and Evolution

Everyone knows that parents provide more than DNA for their offspring. Development does, after all, start with an egg. But such non-genetic inheritance has been conspicuously absent from discussions of how evolution works. Similarly to plasticity, non-genetic inheritance evolves and can be an adaptation. For example, we could ask how parental and offspring plasticity co-evolve and if this enables non-genetic transmission of information between generations. We can also ask if incomplete epigenetic resetting between generations could ever be favoured by natural selection. We address some of these issues as part of an EU funded large collaborative project called IDEAL.

But non-genetic inheritance is more than an adaptation to transfer information between generations (or a cause of phenotypic variance that biases responses to selection as in many quantitative genetic models). We have suggested there are a number of important insights gained from viewing heredity as a developmental process; by allowing us to address the role of non-genetic inheritance in the origin, spread, and maintenance of phenotypic variation. Our hope is that this perspective can motivate further theoretical and empirical research.

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Contact information

Tobias Uller
Wallenberg Academy Fellow
Evolutionary ecology

Telephone: 046-222 30 94
E-mail: tobias.uller [at] biol.lu.se

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