Year 3 - Evolvability

Picture of David Houle

Wednesday, April 26th 2017,  3:30pm

335 Borlaug Hall, St Paul

"What is evolvability and how does it matter?"

David Houle, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida State University

Evolvability is a popular term in biology, but means very different things to different people.  For some, it refers to the ability to predict the short-term ability to respond to selection.  To others it is the ability to produce genetic variation that allows longer-term evolution.  Finally, some treat it as those properties of genetic systems that allow the large evolutionary changes known as macroevolution.  I will discuss two big questions at each of these levels.  First, how should we go about measuring each of these types of evolvability?  Second, is natural selection responsible for the existence or degree of evolvability? Or is evolvability an accidental or unavoidable property of biological systems shaped only indirectly by natural selection?   My own work on fly wings suggests a surprising correspondence between evolvability at different time scales, and that evolvability may be an evolved property, and not just an entertaining accident.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Ecology, and Evolution and Behavior.