Genetic assimilation and accommodation: Models and mechanisms.
Genetic assimilation and genetic accommodation are mechanisms by which novel phenotypes are produced and become established in a population. Novel characters may be fixed and canalized so they are insensitive to environmental variation, or can be plastic and adaptively responsive to environmental variation. In this review we explore the various theories that have been proposed to explain the developmental origin and evolution of novel phenotypes and the mechanisms by which canalization and phenotypic plasticity evolve. These theories and models range from conceptual to mathematical and have taken different views of how genes and environment contribute to the development and evolution of the properties of phenotypes. We will argue that a deeper and more nuanced understanding of genetic accommodation requires a recognition that phenotypes are not static entities but are dynamic system properties with no fixed deterministic relationship between genotype and phenotype. We suggest a mechanistic systems-view of development that allows one to incorporate both genes and environment in a common model, and that enables both quantitative analysis and visualization of the evolution of canalization and phenotypic plasticity.