Friday, March 14, 2014

Lab-meeting about phenotypic evolution, the ongoing synthesis and assortative mating

Posted by Erik Svensson

This coming lab-meeting (Tuesday March 18, 10.30), I wanted to discuss a recent general research overview and perspective by evolutionary biologist Stevan J Arnold. It is about the ongoing synthesis in evolutionary biology, but it takes a longer historical perspective. It is the "American Society of Naturalist's Adress", and it is published in the same journal. Hopefully, you will get some feeling for where evolutionary quantitative genetics is today, where it has evolved from, and where it will go in the future. Hopefully, you will also agree that this is still a very dynamic and exciting research approach that will continue to provide many new insights in the genomic and postgenomic era, as it is a synthetic approach that adresses questions that cannot and will never be answered by molecular approaches alone.

You will find the title, the abstract and a link to the article below. Related to this article, I will also spend a few minutes showing some simulation results of what disruptive selection gradients are useful for, and how they can be used to say something about the future.

Phenotypic Evolution: The Ongoing Synthesis


I explore the proposition that evolutionary biology is currently in the midst of its greatest period of synthesis. This period, which I call the Ongoing Synthesis, began in 1963 and continues at the present time. I use analysis of citations, conduct, and content to compare the Ongoing Synthesis to widely recognized periods of synthesis in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To compare content, I focus on phenotypic evolution and compare current efforts with George Gaylord Simpson’s struggle to understand evolution in deep geological time. The essence of current effort is captured by the question, What is the best model for phenotypic evolution? Although many investigators are actively engaged in answering this question, I single out two examples of my own collaborative work for emphasis here. These two studies share three important characteristics: diagnosis of evolutionary pattern using massive data sets, validation of model parameter values using compilations of estimates (e.g., heritability, stabilizing selection, distance to an intermediate optimum), and identification of evolutionary process using alternative models of stochastic evolution. Our primary findings (discovery of the blunderbuss pattern and the result that rare bursts of evolution carry lineages out of established adaptive zones) compare favorably with important insights from the Modern Synthesis.

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