Unmodern Synthesis: Developmental Hierarchies and the Origin of Phenotypes.

Journal Article (Review;Journal Article)

The question of whether the modern evolutionary synthesis requires an extension has recently become a topic of discussion, and a source of controversy. We suggest that this debate is, for the most part, not about the modern synthesis at all. Rather, it is about the extent to which genetic mechanisms can be regarded as the primary determinants of phenotypic characters. The modern synthesis has been associated with the idea that phenotypes are the result of gene products, while supporters of the extended synthesis have suggested that environmental factors, along with processes such as epigenetic inheritance, and niche construction play an important role in character formation. We argue that the methodology of the modern evolutionary synthesis has been enormously successful, but does not provide an accurate characterization of the origin of phenotypes. For its part, the extended synthesis has yet to be transformed into a testable theory, and accordingly, has yielded few results. We conclude by suggesting that the origin of phenotypes can only be understood by integrating findings from all levels of the organismal hierarchy. In most cases, parts and processes from a single level fail to accurately explain the presence of a given phenotypic trait.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gawne, R; McKenna, KZ; Nijhout, HF

Published Date

  • January 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 40 / 1

PubMed ID

  • 29178269

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1521-1878

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0265-9247

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/bies.201600265


  • eng