The Modern versus Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: an intra-genomic gene's eye view for the evolution-theoretic underpinning of molecular and developmental epigenetics

01 October 2018 → 30 September 2021
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Philosophy of natural sciences
  • Natural sciences
    • Evolutionary biology not elsewhere classified
evolutionary theory evolutionary genetics epigenetics
Project description

Studying the phenotypic evolution of organisms in terms of populations of genes and genotypes, the Modern Synthesis (MS) conceptualizes biological evolution in terms of 'inter-organismal' interactions among genes sitting in the different individual organisms that constitute a population.
It 'black-boxes' the complex 'intra-organismic' molecular and developmental epigenetics that mediates between genotypes and phenotypes. To conceptually integrate epigenetics into evolutionary theory, advocates of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) argue that the MS's reductive gene-centrism should be abandoned in favour of a more inclusive organism-centred
approach. To push the debate to a new level of understanding, I introduce the evolutionary biology of 'intra-genomic conflict' to the controversy. This field is both gene-centred and 'intraorganismic' and, as such, could build a bridge between the gene-centred MS and the intraorganismic field of epigenetics. I will build an evolutionary model based on intra-genomic conflict
and compromise - an intra-genomic gene's eye view - that thinks in terms of combinatorial behavioural-ecological interactions among genes within the genome, as such allowing to consider a combinatorial increase of genetic information compared to when genes are considered separately. This 'non-reductively gene-centred' model will be used to evolutionary-genetically
underpin both molecular and developmental epigenetics.