Abstracts (first author)
Genetic and nongenetic inheritance
Many biologists are calling for an ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ that would ‘modernize the modern synthesis’ of evolution. Biological information is typically considered as being transmitted across generations by the DNA sequence alone, but accumulating evidence indicates that both genetic and non-genetic inheritance and their interactions have important effects on evolutionary outcomes. I will define the terms of nongenetic inheritance and briefly review the evidence for such effects of epigenetic and cultural inheritance, and outline methods that quantify the relative contributions of genetic and non-genetic heritability to the transmission of phenotypic variation across generations. These issues have major implications for diverse domains, including medicine where they may profoundly affect research strategies. For instance, non-genetic inheritance may explain a significant part of one of the major enigma of current molecular biology, namely missing heritability, which concerns many human supposedly genetic disorders. The missing heritability rather suggests that we should broaden our view of inheritance by including non-genetic inheritance into an inclusive theory of evolution.