Extra-Genetic Inheritance and Evolution
Much of our research has focused on how extra-genetic inheritance evolves, in particular when it will provide a flexible means to pass on information between generations. For example, we have shown that incomplete epigenetic resetting between generations can be favored by natural selection if environments show a modest degree of variability and uncertainty. These and other model predictions can be tested empirically, which we do using field and laboratory experiments on water fleas.
Extra-genetic inheritance also serves as a source of phenotypic variation that – similarly to within-generation plasticity – can influence if and how populations adapt. Stress-induced parental effects may, over evolutionary time, be converted into phenotypes that are reliably inherited between generations. We are interested in trying to reveal signatures of this process in populations that have recently adapted to new environments, and our research involves both water fleas and lizards.
If you want to know more
Uller, T. & Helanterä, H. 2017. Heredity in evolutionary theory. In Challenging the Modern Synthesis: Adaptation, Development & Inheritance (eds. P. Huneman & D. Walsh), Oxford University Press
Uller, T., English, S. & Pen, I. 2015. When does natural selection favour incomplete epigenetic resetting in germ cells? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282: 20150682
English, S., Pen, I.R., Shea, N. & Uller, T. 2015. The adaptive value of non-genetic inheritance in plants and insects. PLoS One 10(1): e0116996
Uller, T., Nakagawa, S. & English, S. 2013. Weak evidence for anticipatory parental effects in plants and animals. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26:2161-2170
Badyaev, A. V & Uller, T. 2009. Parental effects in ecology and evolution: Mechanisms, processes, and implications. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 364: 1169-1177