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J Exp Biol. 2006 Jun;209(Pt 12):2362-7.

Phenotypic plasticity and evolution by genetic assimilation.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, SUNY-Stony Brook, 650 Life Science Building, Stony Brook NY 11794, USA.


In addition to considerable debate in the recent evolutionary literature about the limits of the Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s, there has also been theoretical and empirical interest in a variety of new and not so new concepts such as phenotypic plasticity, genetic assimilation and phenotypic accommodation. Here we consider examples of the arguments and counter-arguments that have shaped this discussion. We suggest that much of the controversy hinges on several misunderstandings, including unwarranted fears of a general attempt at overthrowing the Modern Synthesis paradigm, and some fundamental conceptual confusion about the proper roles of phenotypic plasticity and natural selection within evolutionary theory.

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