Acta Biotheoretica 65 (2):97-115 (2017)

Authors
Francesca Merlin
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Abstract
The current debate over extending inheritance and its evolutionary impact has focused on adding new categories of non-genetic factors to the classical transmission of DNA, and on trying to redefine inheritance. Transmitted factors have been mainly characterized by their directions of transmission and the way they store variations. In this paper, we leave aside the issue of defining inheritance. We rather try to build an evolutionary conceptual framework that allows for tracing most, if not all forms of transmission and makes sense of their different tempos and modes. We discuss three key distinctions that should in particular be the targets of theoretical and empirical investigation, and try to assess the interplay among them and evolutionary dynamics. We distinguish two channels of transmission, two measurements of the temporal dynamics of transmission, respectively across and within generations, and two types of transmitted factors according to their evolutionary relevance. By implementing these three distinctions we can then map different forms of transmission over a continuous space describing the combination of their varying dynamical features. While our aim is not to provide yet another model of inheritance, putting together these distinctions and crossing them, we manage to offer an inclusive conceptual framework of transmission, grounded in empirical observation, and coherent with evolutionary theory. This interestingly opens possibilities for qualitative and quantitative analyses, and is a necessary step, we argue, in order to question the interplay between the dynamics of evolution and the dynamics of multiple forms of transmission.
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DOI 10.1007/s10441-017-9305-8
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