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Reflections on the Predictability of Evolution: Toward a Conceptual Framework

Abstract : Evolution is generally considered to be unpredictable because genetic variations are known to occur randomly. However, remarkable patterns of repeated convergent evolution are observed, for instance, loss of pigments by organisms living in caves. Analogous phenotypes appear in similar environments, sometimes in response to similar constraints. Alongside randomness, a certain evolutionary determinism also exists, for instance, the selection of particular phenotypes subjected to particular environmental constraints in the "evolutionary funnel." We pursue the idea that eco-evolutionary specialization is in some way determinist. The conceptual framework of phenotypic changes entailing specialization presented in this essay explains how evolution can be predicted. We also discuss how the predictability of evolution could be tested using the case of metabolic specialization through gene losses. We also put forward that microorganisms could be key models to test and possibly make headway evolutionary predictions and knowledge about evolution.
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Alix Mas, Yvan Lagadeuc, Philippe Vandenkoornhuyse. Reflections on the Predictability of Evolution: Toward a Conceptual Framework. iScience, Elsevier, 2020, 23 (11), pp.101736. ⟨10.1016/j.isci.2020.101736⟩. ⟨hal-03037451⟩

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