New Publication in Studies in History and Philosophy of Life Sciences

Plasticity, stability, and yield: The origins of Anthony David Bradshaw's model of adaptive phenotypic plasticity

A new paper by Erick Peirson in Studies in History and Philosophy of Life Sciences is available online.

Plant ecologist Anthony David Bradshaw's account of the evolution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity remains central to contemporary research aimed at understanding how organisms persist in heterogeneous environments. Bradshaw suggested that changes in particular traits in response to specific environmental factors could be under direct genetic control, and that natural selection could therefore act directly to shape those responses: plasticity was not “noise” obscuring a genetic signal, but could be specific and refined just as any other adaptive phenotypic trait. In this paper, I document the contexts and development of Bradshaw's investigation of phenotypic plasticity in plants, including a series of unreported experiments in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

For those without an institutional subscription to Elsevier, see the archived preprint.

New Review in Quarterly Review of Biology

Erick Peirson's review of Ted R. Anderson's The Life of David Lack: Father of Evolutionary Ecology was published in the March issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology. See the full review here (paywall).

David Lack (1910–1973) was a British ornithologist whose research on population biology was part of a broader set of attempts in mid-20th century to integrate neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory into explanations of the distribution and abundance of species. In The Life of David Lack, ecologist Ted R. Anderson asserts that Lack should be appreciated as the “father of evolutionary ecology,” pointing to his 1947 book Darwin's Finches and his 1947 paper titled “The Significance of Clutch-Size” as evidence for his claim. Central to both of those works was the idea that the demographic and reproductive characteristics of a species are best explained in terms of maximizing the reproductive fitness of individual organisms, and the idea that the mechanisms of this selective process can be studied through experimental manipulations in the field.

Chapter in "The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics"

Manfred Laubichler's chapter, "Homology as a bridge between evolutionary morphology, developmental evolution and phylogenetic systematics," appears in the recently-released The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics, edited by Andrew Hamilton.

New article in Biology & Philosophy

PhD candidate Christopher Dimond is a co-author on a recent paper in Biology & Philosophy, titled "Pluralism in evolutionary controversies: styles and averaging strategies in hierarchical selection theories."

Two controversies exist regarding the appropriate characterization of hierarchical and adaptive evolution in natural populations. In biology, there is the Wright–Fisher controversy over the relative roles of random genetic drift, natural selection, population structure, and interdemic selection in adaptive evolution begun by Sewall Wright and Ronald Aylmer Fisher. There is also the Units of Selection debate, spanning both the biological and the philosophical literature and including the impassioned group-selection debate. Why do these two discourses exist separately, and interact relatively little? We postulate that the reason for this schism can be found in the differing focus of each controversy, a deep difference itself determined by distinct general styles of scientific research guiding each discourse. That is, the Wright–Fisher debate focuses on adaptive process, and tends to be instructed by the mathematical modeling style, while the focus of the Units of Selection controversy is adaptive product, and is typically guided by the function style. The differences between the two discourses can be usefully tracked by examining their interpretations of two contested strategies for theorizing hierarchical selection: horizontal and vertical averaging.

Book Review: Ullica Segerstrale, 'Nature’s Oracle. The Life and Work of W.D. Hamilton' by Guido Caniglia

Guido Caniglia's recent review of Ullica Segerstrale's new biography of evolutionary biologist Bill Hamilton was published in the November issue of the Journal of the History of Biology. It is available online here (paywall).

New Publication in Creative Education: A Global Classroom for International Sustainability Education

Manfred Laubichler and Guido Caniglia are co-authors on a recent paper in the journal Creative Education: A Global Classroom for International Sustainability Education.

A brief review of international sustainability education options currently available to students reveals a gap between the knowledge students may need to succeed in a globalized world and the opportunities available. Into this landscape, we introduce The Global Classroom, an international collaboration between Leuphana Univer-sity of Lüneburg in Germany and Arizona State University in the US. The project strives for an interdis-ciplinary and cross-cultural approach to equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes re-quired to take on sustainability challenges in international settings. We discuss the structure and organiza-tion of the Global Classroom model and share preliminary experiences. The article concludes with a re-flection on institutional structures conducive to providing students with the international learning oppor-tunities they may need to tackle sustainability problems in a globalized world.

New Publication: Genetic and developmental basis of F2 hybrid breakdown in Nasonia parasitoid wasps

Gibson, J. D., O. Niehuis, B. R. E. Peirson, E. I. Cash, J. Gadau. 2013. "Genetic and developmental basis of F2 hybrid breakdown in Nasonia parasitoid wasps." Evolution: Available Online.

Speciation is responsible for the vast diversity of life, and hybrid inviability, by reducing gene flow between populations, is a major contributor to this process. In the parasitoid wasp genus Nasonia, F2 hybrid males of Nasonia vitripennis and Nasonia giraulti experience an increased larval mortality rate relative to the parental species. Previous studies indicated that this increase of mortality is a consequence of incompatibilities between multiple nuclear loci and cytoplasmic factors of the parental species, but could only explain ∼40% of the mortality rate in hybrids with N. giraulti cytoplasm. Here we report a locus on chromosome 5 that can explain the remaining mortality in this cross. We show that hybrid larvae that carry the incompatible allele on chromosome 5 halt growth early in their development and that ∼98% die before they reach adulthood. On the basis of these new findings, we identified a nuclear-encoded OXPHOS gene as a strong candidate for being causally involved in the observed hybrid breakdown, suggesting that the incompatible mitochondrial locus is one of the six mitochondrial-encoded NADH genes. By identifying both genetic and physiological mechanisms that reduce gene flow between species, our results provide valuable and novel insights into the evolutionary dynamics of speciation.

Paper in ISIS: "Computational Perspectives in the History of Science" by Laubichler, Maienschein, and Renn

You can read the full text online (open access!) here.

Abstract. Computational methods and perspectives can transform the history of science by enabling the pursuit of novel types of questions, dramatically expanding the scale of analysis (geographically and temporally), and offering novel forms of publication that greatly enhance access and transparency. This essay presents a brief summary of a computational research system for the history of science, discussing its implications for research, education, and publication practices and its connections to the open-access movement and similar transformations in the natural and social sciences that emphasize big data. It also argues that computational approaches help to reconnect the history of science to individual scientific disciplines.