Modern evolutionary biology is founded on the Mendelian-genetic model of inheritance, but it is now clear that this model is incomplete. Empirical evidence shows that environment (encompassing all external influences on the genome) can impose transgenerational effects and generate heritable variation for a broad array of traits in animals, plants, and other organisms. Such effects can be mediated by the transmission of epigenetic, cytoplasmic, somatic, nutritional, environmental, and behavioral variation. Building on the work of many authors, we outline a general framework for conceptualizing nongenetic inheritance and its evolutionary implications. This framework shows that, by decoupling phenotypic change from the genotype, nongenetic inheritance can circumvent the limitations of genetic inheritance and thereby influence population dynamics and alter the fitness landscape. The weight of theory and empirical evidence indicates that nongenetic inheritance is a potent factor in evolution that can engender outcomes unanticipated under the Mendelian-genetic model.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error