Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Nongenetic Effects

9 - 13 December 2013

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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An accumulating number of studies indicate that nongenetic inheritance – mediated by mechanisms such as cultural inheritance, maternal effects or epigenetic DNA modifications – has a profound effect on the rate and direction of organismal adaptation. Conventional evolutionary theory, however, largely ignores the effects of such forms of extended inheritance.

To fill this gap, the current workshop aims to come up with formal predictions about the ecological and social contexts that give rise to nongenetic inheritance. While nongenetic inheritance is conventionally associated with changing environments, few quantitative predictions exist about the particular forms of environmental variation that favor nongenetic inheritance. Additionally, conflicts of interest between family members, for example between parents and offspring, may also hamper or facilitate the evolution of nongenetic inheritance mechanisms. While exploring these and other questions, an overarching theme of the workshop is whether conclusions are sensitive to mechanistic detail about the molecular or neurological basis of inheritance.

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