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How Symbiosis Can Guide Evolution

By Richard A. Watson and Jordan B. Pollack


Hinton and Nowlan have demonstrated a model of how lifetime plasticity can guide evolution. They show how acquired traits change the shape of the reward landscape in which subsequent genetic variation takes place, and in so doing encourage the discovery of equivalent heritable traits. This enables the seemingly Lamarkian inheritance of acquired characteristics without the direct transfer of information from the phenotype to the genotype. This paper draws direct inspiration from their work to illustrate a different phenomenon. We demonstrate how the formation of symbiotic relationships in an ecosystem can guide the course of subsequent genetic variation. This phenomenon can be described as two phases: First, symbiotic groups find solutions where individual organisms cannot, simply because lifetime interaction produces new combinations of abilities more rapidly than the relatively slow genetic variation of individuals. Second, these symbiotic groups subsequently change the shape of the reward landscape for evolution, providing a gradient that guides genetic variation to the same solution. Ultimately, an individual organism exhibits the capabilities formerly exhibited by the group. This process enables the combination of characteristics from organisms of distinct species without direct transfer of genetic information

Publisher: Springer Verlag
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1007/3-540-48304-7_7
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Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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