developmental bias - genetics - epigenetics
In the traditional framework of evolution, mutations are regarded as the ultimate source of genetic variation and natural selection as the filtering process determining which variants are conserved for future generations and which are not. Effects of the environment as well as developmental processes on the way genotypes translate to phenotypes are regarded random and not affecting evolution. However, the developmental system organisms are subject to is also shaped by evolution, therefore the way genes and the environment affect the phenotype are coordinated and can be directional and even functional. The evolutionary trajectory a species takes is therefore affected by development. This developmental bias is often marginalized as anecdotal. In this project we will use meta-analysis to investigate how widespread developmental bias is, whether cryptic genetic variation — which is released in novel environments — is non-random and how phenotypic plasticity plays a role in these processes. This project is part of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis research program.