I will be attending the Royal Society Meeting on New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. I'll post each of the abstracts and ask for your help in deciding what question to pose to the speakers. Here's the abstract for Tobias Uller's talk on Heredity and evolutionary theory.
Heredity is a central concept in biology and one of the core principles needed for evolution by natural selection. For most of the past century inheritance has been conceptualised and defined in terms of transmission of genes. Emerging developmental perspectives on evolution appear to challenge this perspective in several ways. Here I will explain how evolutionary biologists treat heredity conceptually and mathematically. These perspectives are heuristically useful but they impose a certain structure on evolutionary theory and leave out aspects of heredity that may be important to understand evolution. An alternative representation understands heredity as an outcome of developmental processes. I will suggest that this perspective helps to clarify how different mechanisms of inheritance contributes to evolution.I have to wait to hear this talk in order to figure out what he means. From reading the abstracts to some of his papers I think he's going to promote plasticity and epigenetics ... or maybe maternal effects.
In any case, the standard understanding of "heredity" is when alleles (genes) are passed from one generation to another. The process usually involves DNA replication and cell division but it encompasses horizontal transmission. I'll be interested in hearing about other mechanisms of heredity.