Adaptation, History of

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The author traces the historical development of adaptation in evolutionary theory from Lamarck's 1809 theory, Darwin's theory of natural selection, anti-Darwinian theories popular in the decades around 1900, and neo-Darwinian theory as elaborated by population genetics beginning in the 1920s. Evolutionary studies of adaptation dating from the 'modern synthesis' of the 1940s through the 1970s generated an 'adaptationist program,' which was severely criticized beginning in the late 1970s as idealistic and scientifically unsound. Progress in molecular genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, and precise reconstruction of phylogeny subsequently rescued evolutionary studies of adaptation from the discredited methods of the adaptationist program.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780128004265
ISBN (Print)9780128000496
StatePublished - Apr 14 2016


  • Adaptation
  • Adaptationist program
  • Additive variance in fitness
  • Darwinism
  • Developmental constraint
  • Developmental module
  • Exaptation
  • Function
  • Genetic assimilation
  • Genetic drift
  • Gradualism
  • Homology
  • Lamarckism
  • Mutation
  • Natural selection
  • Neutral evolution
  • Phenotypic accommodation
  • Phylogeny
  • Saltation
  • Selfish DNA


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