Long-term Sabbatical

The nature of nurture: how environmental and genetic information interact to shape development and evolution

PI(s): Armin Moczek (Indiana University-Bloomington)
Start Date: 1-Sep-2010
End Date: 3-Jun-2011

The quest to understand the roles of genetic and environmental contributions to the way organisms develop and evolve is as old as biology itself. However, exploring this topic in the context of a nature vs. nurture debate, or a gene vs. environment dichotomy, is fundamentally missleading: both contributors inextricably build on each other as they shape the way organisms develop and evolve. The genes vs. environment, or nature vs. nurture metaphor must therefore be adjusted to one that captures the interplay between genes, environment, ontogeny, organismal variation, and developmental evolution, or the nature of nurture. My proposed sabbatical aims to focus on two emerging biological disciplines, evolutionary-developmental-biology and ecological-developmental-biology, which are showing great promise toward transforming the nature vs. nurture perspective. Specifically, my aims are (1) to review critical emerging terms and concepts in evo-devo and eco-devo and their relationship to established frameworks in evolution, developmental biology and genetics. (2) Focusing on a subset of emerging phenomena believed to be especially critical to understanding the nature of nurture I will review existing literature and determine what it is we know presently about their causes, mechanisms, and consequences, and what it is we don't. (3) Lastly, I will identify the types of evidence, experiments, methods, data and tests necessary to fill current gaps, and as such lay the foundation of a research program for myself and others. The proposed efforts are designed to facilitate collaborations with members of the NESCent community and will result in the publication of at least three synthetic review articles and one monograph.

Related products

  • The evolvability of arthropods Stansbury, M., Moczek, A. 2012. The evolvability of arthropods. Arthropod Structure and Development: Major Features and Evolutionary Patterns.
  • The nature of nurture and the causes of traits: toward a comprehensive theory of developmental evolution Moczek, A. P. 2012. The nature of nurture and the causes of traits: toward a comprehensive theory of developmental evolution. Integrative & Comparative Biology 52, Supplement 1: E123.
  • Evolutionary biology: The origins of novelty Armin P. Moczek. 2011, Evolutionary biology: The origins of novelty, Nature, volume 473, issue 7345, pp. 34-35