Evol Ecol Res 7: 371-379 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Environmentally alterable additive genetic effects

Root Gorelick*

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501, USA

e-mail: cycad@asu.edu


Question: How can we measure the effects of exogenous environment in the parental generation on heritable changes in subsequent generations?

Mathematical method: Parent–offspring regression models can be used to estimate additive genetic effects that are caused by environmentally alterable signals.

Key assumption: To be relevant, environmentally alterable additive effects (e.g. environmentally induced epigenetic changes in cytosine methylation or chromatin formation) must be non-negligible compared with direct additive genetic effects.

Predictions: Large environmentally alterable additive genetic variance confounds prediction of evolutionary trajectories, but (1) provides a mechanism by which environmental variance directly increases additive genetic variance, (2) implies that environmental variance can cause evolutionary novelty, (3) provides one of possibly many mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity, and (4) may provide an explanation for why plants are more phenotypically plastic than animals.

Conclusion: Environmentally alterable additive genetic effects place molecular epigenetic effects and soft inheritance within a modern neo-Darwinian quantitative genetic framework.

Keywords: cytosine methylation, epigenetic, hard inheritance, heritability, phenotypic plasticity, reaction norm, soft inheritance.

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