In the last decade, niche construction has been heralded as the neglected process in evolution. But niche construction is just oneway in which the organism’s interaction with and construction of the environment can have potential evolutionary significance. The constructed environment does not just select for, it also produces new variation. Nearly 3 decades ago, and in parallel with Odling-Smee’s article ‘Niche-constructing phenotypes’, West and King introduced the ‘ontogenetic niche’ to give the phenomena of exogenetic inheritance a formal name. Since then, a range of fields in the life sciences and medicine has amassed evidence that parents influence their offspring by means other than DNA (parental effects), and proposed mechanisms for how heritable variation can be environmentally induced and developmentally regulated. The concept of ‘developmental niche construction’ (DNC) elucidates how a diverse range of mechanisms contributes to the transgenerational transfer of developmental resources. My most central of claims is that whereas the selective niche of niche construction theory is primarily used to explain the active role of the organism in its selective environment, DNC is meant to indicate the active role of the organismin its developmental environment. The paper highlights the differences between the construction of the selective and the developmental niche, and explores the overall significance of DNC for evolutionary theory.
Bibliographical noteCopyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.
- adaptive variation
- developmental niche
- developmental niche construction
- exogenetic resources
- extended inheritance
- selective niche