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ref: -2009 tags: Baldwin effect finches date: 02-22-2021 17:35 gmt revision:0 [head]

Evolutionary significance of phenotypic accommodation in novel environments: an empirical test of the Baldwin effect

Up until reading this, I had thought that the Balwin effect refers to the fact that when animals gain an ability to learn, this allows them to take new ecological roles without genotypic adaptation. This is a component of the effect, but is not the original meaning, which is opposite: when species adapt to a novel environment through phenotypic adptation (say adapting to colder weather through within-lifetime variation), evolution tends to push these changes into the germ line. This is something to the effect of Lamarkian evolution.

In the case of house finches, as discussed in the link above, this pertains to increased brood variability and sexual dimorphism due to varied maternal habits and hormones due to environmental stress. This variance is then rapidly operated on by natural selection to tune the finch to it's new enviroment, including Montana, where the single author did most of his investigation.

There are of course countless other details here, but still this is an illuminating demonstration of how evolution works to move information into the genome.