Abstracts (first author)
Learning-like mechanisms across development: insights for the evolution of life histories and complex traits
A long standing question in biology is understanding how complex and diverse traits can arise out of a relatively simply genome. Developmental selection, a process analogous to learning, has long been touted as a mechanism that can explain the emergence of complexity in the immune and nervous systems. Here, I argue that a broader appreciation of developmental selection across all traits is necessary for understanding phenotypic evolution. In particular, developmental selection increases the likelihood of adaptive plasticity and integrated complexity in traits, but comes with energetic and time costs relative to a specialist, resulting in major changes in life history strategies. In this talk I review evidence that developmental selection applies to a range of traits, from behavior to gene expression, and suggest that incorporating this mechanism into our evolutionary models will lead to a more complete understanding of innovation, diversification and complexity.