1932

Abstract

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.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.39.110707.173441
2009-12-01
2024-06-17
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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