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Evolution. 2006 Sep;60(9):1751-62.

Perspective: seven reasons (not) to neglect niche construction.

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  • 1Centre for Evolution, Genes, and Genomics, School of Biology, St. Andrews University, Fife KY16 9TS, United Kingdom.


The niche-construction perspective within evolutionary biology places emphasis on the changes that organisms bring about in their selective environments. Advocates of this viewpoint argue that there is both accuracy and utility in treating niche construction as an evolutionary process in its own right, rather than merely as a product of evolution. Here we discuss and assess seven putative weaknesses of the niche-construction perspective. Niche construction has been neglected or rejected on the grounds that (1) it is not prevalent, (2) its study is not tractable, (3) it is not a process, (4) it is caused by natural selection, (5) it does not change our understanding of evolution in any fundamental way, (6) it does not bring about adaptation, and (7) it is not a single phenomenon. In each case, we critically evaluate the theoretical standing of these arguments and consider the empirical evidence that can be brought to bear on the debate. We conclude that none of these are strong criticisms of the niche-construction perspective and maintain that there are compelling reasons for treating niche construction as a major evolutionary process.

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