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Different perspectives on non-genetic inheritance illustrate the versatile utility of the Price equation in evolutionary biology

  • Heikki Helanterä
  • Tobias Uller
Publishing year: 2020-03-09
Language: English
Publication/Series: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume: 375
Issue: 1797
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

The diversity of genetic and non-genetic processes that make offspring resemble their parents are increasingly well understood. In addition to genetic inheritance, parent-offspring similarity is affected by epigenetic, behavioural and cultural mechanisms that collectively can be referred to as non-genetic inheritance. Given the generality of the Price equation as a description of evolutionary change, is it not surprising that the Price equation has been adopted to model the evolutionary implications of non-genetic inheritance. In this paper, we briefly introduce the heredity perspectives on which those models rely, discuss the extent to which these perspectives make different assumptions and place different emphases on the roles of heredity and development in evolution, and the types of empirical research programmes they motivate. The existence of multiple perspectives and explanatory aims highlight, on the one hand, the versatility of the Price equation and, on the other hand, the importance of understanding how heredity and development can be conceptualized in evolutionary studies. This article is part of the theme issue 'Fifty years of the Price equation'.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • development
  • evolutionary theory
  • George Price
  • inheritance
  • non-genetic inheritance
  • Price equation


  • ISSN: 1471-2970