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Extended Evolutionary Synthesis

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Title: Extended Evolutionary Synthesis  
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Subject: WikiProject Academic Journals/Journals cited by Wikipedia/R21, History of biology, Evolution, Adaptive value, Cladogenesis
Collection: Biology Theories, Evolution, History of Biology
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Extended Evolutionary Synthesis

Massimo Pigliucci, a leading proponent of the extended evolutionary synthesis.

The extended evolutionary synthesis is an extension of the Modern Synthesis of evolution which revisits the relative importance of different factors at play in evolutionary theory, revisits several assumptions of the original synthesis, and augments the modern synthesis with additional causative factors in evolution.

The extended synthesis is still a work-in-progress, essentially having been launched in 2007 by a paper by Massimo Pigliucci in the journal Evolution,[1] followed by a conference on the subject in 2008 at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research.[2] The participants of the conference published a book in 2010 title Evolution: The Extended Synthesis which has served as a launching point for work on the extended synthesis.[3] Several of the topics included in the extended synthesis include:

  • Showing the importance of the role of prior configurations, genomic structures, and other traits in the organism in generating evolutionary variations.[4] [5]
  • Looking at how increasing dimensionality of fitness landscapes affects our view of speciation[3]
  • Examining the role of multilevel selection in the major evolutionary transitions[3]
  • Looking at new types of inheritance, including cultural and epigenetic inheritance[6]
  • Examining the way that developmental plasticity channels evolutionary pathways[7]
  • Looking at how organisms modify the environments they belong to through niche construction[8]

Several biologists have contended that there is no need for an extended synthesis because the modern synthesis is able to fully account for the newer observations, while advocates for the extended synthesis think that the conceptions of evolution at the core of the modern synthesis are too narrow.[9] Proponents of the extended synthesis think that even when the modern synthesis allows for the ideas in the extended synthesis, the modern synthesis, being used as a starting point, affects the way that biologists think about evolution. Proponents say that using terms and categories of the modern synthesis distort the picture of biology that modern experimentation has discovered.[10] Therefore, they claim that the extended synthesis is necessary to help expand the conceptions and framework of how evolution is considered throughout the biological disciplines.

The goal of the extended synthesis is to take evolution beyond the gene-centered approach of population genetics to consider more organism- and ecology-centered approaches. Many of these causes are currently considered secondary in evolutionary causation, and proponents of the extended synthesis want them to be considered first-class evolutionary causes.[11]


  1. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (2007). "Do We Need an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis?". Evolution 61 (12): 2743–2749.  
  2. ^ Grant, Bob (1 January 2010). "Should Evolutionary Theory Evolve". The Scientist. 
  3. ^ a b c Pigliucci (26 March 2010). Evolution - the Extended Synthesis. The MIT Press.  
  4. ^ Meaden, Rhiannon (5 August 2015). "Redefining Evolutionary Biology". The Royal Society Publishing Blog. 
  5. ^ Indiana University (7 August 2015). "Expanding the Theory of Evolution". Lab Manager. 
  6. ^ Schrey; et al. (15 December 2011). "The Role of Epigenetic in Evolution: the Extended Synthesis". Genetics Research International 2012: 286164.  
  7. ^ Stotz, Karola (20 August 2014). "Extended evolutionary psychology: the importance of transgenerational developmental plasticity". Frontiers in Psychology 5: 908.  
  8. ^ Laland; et al. (5 August 2015). "The extended evolutionary synthesis: its structure, assumptions and predictions". The Royal Society Publishing Proceedings B 282 (1813): 20151019.  
  9. ^ Laland; et al. (8 October 2014). "Does Evolutionary Theory Need a Rethink?". Nature 514 (7521): 161–164.  
  10. ^ Noble, Denis (1 January 2015). "Evolution Beyond Neo-Darwinism: A New Conceptual Framework". The Journal of Experimental Biology 218 (Pt 1): 7–13.  
  11. ^ "Expanding Theory of Evolution". PhysOrg. 5 August 2015. 
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