Bridging the developmental gap ? Quantitative genetic models of long-term evolvability


24 février 2021

15h00 - 17h00


The CEFISES Center is pleased to announce the sixth session of the Life & Cognition seminar series in 2020/2021.

Our invited speaker will be Laura Nuño de la RosaDepartment of Logic and Theoretical Philosophy, Complutense University of Madrid.

The talk will take place on line, on 24/02/21 - 15h00-17h00.
To register, please contact Andrea Gambarotto (
ID: 350 044 2569

Abstract: After decades of polarization between adaptationists and structuralists, population genetics and evo-devo tend to be seen today as complementary, non-overlapping research programs, each of them addressed to different aspects of the same evolutionary process. Several dichotomies between evolutionary timescales (short-term vs long-term evolution), types of biological phenomena (novelty/homology vs trait modification, species vs lineages, form vs function), or kinds of causes (proximate vs ultimate causes, variability vs selection), have been proposed to capture their corresponding research agendas. Philosophers have generally welcomed the complementarity thesis, arguing that unification does not need to be pursued in biology, and most evolutionary biologists seem to have assumed a comfortable epistemological diagnosis that allows them to neglect each others' research. The recent agreement on an extended evolutionary synthesis understood as the multiplication of research agendas added to the original, untouched core of population genetics, summarizes this new consensus. However, evolvability, one of the new themes that recurrently shows up as a major expansion of the Synthesis, does not easily fit into this picture. While it might be true that there are as many phenomena related to evolvability as disciplines studying it, it is also the case that evolvability research is an active zone of interaction among different biological disciplines, and particularly between quantitative genetics and evo-devo. Here evolvability exhibits a combination of traits from both sides of the above-referred dichotomies, and biologists seem to be trying to understand the same phenomenon with a mixture of methodological tools coming from both developmental and populational biology. While I agree with the general claim that different explanatory frameworks cover different aspects of evolution, I will argue that overlapping domains such as that demarcated by populational models of developmental evolvability, are in fact envisaging an integrated, though not necessarily unified, theory of evolution. I will focus on quantitative genetics models of long-term evolvability in order to interrogate what kind of assumptions in classical population genetics are in fact revised and how development is translated in order to be incorporated into these models.

Upcoming sessions:

24/03: Gertrudis van de Vijver (Gand)
05/05: Arantza Exteberria (San Sebastian)
02/06: Charlotte Alderwick (Bristol)


Life and Cognition seminar series - 6th with Laura Nuño de la Rosa, University of Madrid


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