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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X

Abstract

NESPOLO, ROBERTO F. Is the evolutionary theory still useful?: A review with examples. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2010, vol.83, n.4, pp.479-495. ISSN 0716-078X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0716-078X2010000400003.

Evolutionary biology is experiencing an exceptional process of revisión and outreach because of the 200-anniversary if the birth of Charles Darwin. As a consequence, the study of organic evolution and also its teaching are being discussed at several levels, by evolutionary biologists, biologists and scholars outside evolutionary biology and by the general public. In this scenario, a didactic explanation of how biologists address evolutionary research in real populations seems to be useful. Using actual research examples, here I tried to outline how the classic theory (termed here as the "basic scheme") is useful to answer relevant questions in biology and how a less dogmatic paradigm (or a more versatile one) would be needed when dealing with the most recent and extravagant cases of gene, genotype, phenotype and environment interactions. Specifically, I used three in-extenso examples of research driven by hypothesis-testing: (1) the changes in genetic architecture induced by sexuality in a cyclically parthenogenetic insect; (2) the test of the energetic definition of fitness through phenotypic selection studies; and (3) the assessment of the underlying causes of character displacement in Darwin finches. In the former two cases, it is argued that the basic scheme is useful and sufficient for testing relevant evolutionary hypotheses. In the third case, it is argued that something else is needed to explain the observed genetic variation that Geospiza species exhibit in Daphne major island (Galapagos). Finally, I outline some "extravagant" cases biological entities interacting, such as horizontal gene transfer, epigenetic inheritance, adaptive anticipatory conditioning, evolutionary capacitance and niche construction. This "post-modern" biology has been seriously proposed and demonstrated to be widespread in nature, which would justify an extended evolutionary synthesis.

Keywords : character displacement; microevolution; modern synthesis; natural selection; population genetics.

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