Publications and drafts by topic: Evolvability
Ehud Lamm & Eva Jablonka, The Nurture of Nature: Hereditary Plasticity in Evolution. In Philosophical Psychology 21 (3):305–319, 2008 [Page]
The dichotomy between Nature and Nurture, which has been dismantled within the framework of development, remains embodied in the notions of plasticity and evolvability. We argue that plasticity and evolvability, like development and heredity, are neither dichotomous nor distinct: the very same mechanisms may be involved in both, and the research perspective chosen depends to a large extent on the type of problem being explored and the kinds of questions being asked. Epigenetic inheritance leads to transgenerationally extended plasticity, and developmentally-induced heritable epigenetic variations provide additional foci for selection that can lead to evolutionary change. Moreover, hereditary innovations may result from developmentally induced large-scale genomic repatterning events, which are akin to Goldschmidtian “systemic mutations”. The epigenetic mechanisms involved in repatterning can be activated by both environmental and genomic stress, and lead to phylogenetic as well as ontogenetic changes. Hence, the effects and the mechanisms of plasticity directly contribute to evolvability.
Ehud Lamm, Conceptual and methodological biases in network models. In Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2009;1178(1 Natural Genetic Engineering and Natural Genome Editing):291-304, 2009 [Page|PDF ]
Many natural and biological phenomena can be depicted as networks. Theoretical and empirical analyses of networks have become prevalent. I discuss theoretical biases involved in the delineation of biological networks. The network perspective is shown to dissolve the distinction between regulatory architecture and regulatory state, consistent with the theoretical impossibility of distinguishing a priori between “program” and “data.” The evolutionary significance of the dynamics of trans-generational and interorganism regulatory networks is explored and implications are presented for understanding the evolution of the biological categories development-heredity, plasticity-evolvability, and epigenetic-genetic.
Ehud Lamm, The genome as a developmental organ. In Journal of Physiology 592 (11):2237-2244 (2014), 2014 [Page]
This paper applies the conceptual toolkit of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (evo‐devo) to the evolution of the genome and the role of the genome in organism development. This challenges both the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, the dominant view in evolutionary theory for much of the 20th century, and the typically unreflective analysis of heredity by evo‐devo. First, the history of the marginalization of applying system‐thinking to the genome is described. Next, the suggested framework is presented. Finally, its application to the evolution of genome modularity, the evolution of induced mutations, the junk DNA versus ENCODE debate, the role of drift in genome evolution, and the relationship between genome dynamics and symbiosis with microorganisms are briefly discussed.
Ehud Lamm, Cultural group selection and holobiont evolution – a comparison of structures of evolution. In Snait Gissis, Ehud Lamm, and Ayelet Shavit (eds.), Landscapes of Collectivity in the Life Sciences. MIT Press., 2017 [Page|PDF ]
The notion of structure of evolution is proposed to capture what it means to say that two situations exhibit the same or similar constellations of factors affecting evolution. The key features of holobiont evolution and the hologenome theory are used to define a holobiont structure of evolution. Finally, Cultural Group Selection, a set of hypotheses regarding the evolution of human cognition, is shown to match the holobiont structure closely though not perfectly.
Ehud Lamm, I Was Slijper’s Goat. 2019 [Page]
Ehud Lamm, For the Synthesis was a Boojum, you see. In NDPR, 2019 [Page]
Michael R. Dietrich, Oren Harman, Ehud Lamm, Richard Lewontin and the ‘complications of linkage’. In Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88: 237–244, 2021 [Page]
During the 1960s and 1970s population geneticists pushed beyond models of single genes to grapple with the effect on evolution of multiple genes associated by linkage. The resulting models of multiple interacting loci suggested that blocks of genes, maybe even entire chromosomes or the genome itself, should be treated as a unit. In this context, Richard Lewontin wrote his famous 1974 book The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, which concludes with an argument for considering the entire genome as the unit of selection as a result of linkage. Why did Lewontin and others devote so much intellectual energy to the “complications of linkage” in the 1960s and 1970s? We argue that this attention to linkage should be understood in the context of research on chromosomal inversions and co-adapted gene complexes that occupied mid-century evolutionary genetics. For Lewontin, the complications of linkage were an extension of this chromosomal focus expressed in the new language of models for linkage disequilibrium.
Adam Krashniak and Ehud Lamm, Francis Galton’s regression towards mediocrity and the stability of types. In Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 86: 6–19, 2021 [Page]
A prevalent narrative locates the discovery of the statistical phenomenon of regression to the mean in the work of Francis Galton. It is claimed that after 1885, Galton came to explain the fact that offspring deviated less from the mean value of the population than their parents did as a population-level statistical phenomenon and not as the result of the processes of inheritance. Arguing against this claim, we show that Galton did not explain regression towards mediocrity statistically, and did not give up on his ideas regarding an inheritance process that caused offspring to revert to the mean. While the common narrative focuses almost exclusively on Galton’s statistics, our arguments emphasize the anthropological and biological questions that Galton addressed. Galton used regression towards mediocrity to support the claim that some biological types were more stable than others and hence were resistant to evolutionary change. This view had implications concerning both natural selection and eugenics. The statistical explanation attributed to Galton appeared later, during the biometrician-mutationist debate in the early 1900s. It was in the context of this debate and specifically by the biometricians, that the development of the statistical explanation was originally attributed to Galton.
Ehud Lamm and Oren Kolodny, Distributed Adaptations: Can a Species Be Adapted While No Single Individual Carries the Adaptation?. In Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10, 2022 [Page]
Species’ adaptation to their environments occurs via a range of mechanisms of adaptation. These include genetic adaptations as well as non-traditional inheritance mechanisms such as learned behaviors, niche construction, epigenetics, horizontal gene transfer, and alteration of the composition of a host’s associated microbiome. We propose to supplement these with another modality of eco-evolutionary dynamics: cases in which adaptation to the environment occurs via what may be called a “distributed adaptation,” in which the adaptation is not conferred via something carried by an individual of the adapted species (as with genes, behavior, or associated microbes), but by some structural or compositional aspect of the population. Put differently, the adaptively relevant information cannot be reduced to information possessed by a single individual, whether genetic or otherwise. Rather, the adaptively relevant information is distributed, and is found strictly at the population level. While human culture is presumably such a case, as may be cases found in social insects, we want to suggest that there are other cases that belong to this category and to explore its evolutionary implications. In particular, we discuss the factors that affect whether adaptive information is stored in a distributed way, to what degree, and what kinds of adaptive information are most likely to be found in this modality of adaptation.
Ehud Lamm, Meir Finkel, and Oren Kolodny, Human major transitions from the perspective of distributed adaptations. In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 2023 [Page]
Distributed adaptations are cases in which adaptation is dependent on the population as a whole: the adaptation is conferred by a structural or compositional aspect of the population; the adaptively relevant information cannot be reduced to information possessed by a single individual. Possible examples of human-distributed adaptations are song lines, traditions, trail systems, game drive lanes and systems of water collection and irrigation. Here we discuss the possible role of distributed adaptations in human cultural macro-evolution. Several kinds of human-distributed adaptations are presented, and their evolutionary implications are highlighted. In particular, we discuss the implications of population size, density and bottlenecks on the distributed adaptations that a population may possess and how they in turn would affect the population’s resilience to ecological change. We discuss the implications that distributed adaptations may have for human collective action and the possibility that they played a role in colonization of new areas and niches, in seasonal migration, and in setting constraints for minimal inter-population connectivity.
This article is part of the theme issue ‘Human socio-cultural evolution in light of evolutionary transitions’.