Evolutionary quantitative genetics of nonlinear developmental systems

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In quantitative genetics, the effects of developmental relationships among traits on microevolution are generally represented by the contribution of pleiotropy to additive genetic covariances. Pleiotropic additive genetic covariances arise only from the average effects of alleles on multiple traits, and therefore the evolutionary importance of nonlinearities in development is generally neglected in quantitative genetic views on evolution. However, nonlinearities in relationships among traits at the level of whole organisms are undeniably important to biology in general, and therefore critical to understanding evolution. I outline a system for characterizing key quantitative parameters in nonlinear developmental systems, which yields expressions for quantities such as trait means and phenotypic and genetic covariance matrices. I then develop a system for quantitative prediction of evolution in nonlinear developmental systems. I apply the system to generating a new hypothesis for why direct stabilizing selection is rarely observed. Other uses will include separation of purely correlative from direct and indirect causal effects in studying mechanisms of selection, generation of predictions of medium‐term evolutionary trajectories rather than immediate predictions of evolutionary change over single generation time‐steps, and the development of efficient and biologically motivated models for separating additive from epistatic genetic variances and covariances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2050-2066
Issue number8
Early online date12 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2015


  • Phenotypic landscape
  • Development
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Epistasis
  • Extended selection gradients
  • Stabilising selection


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