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Non-Genetic Inheritance

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Non-genetic Inheritance in Evolutionary Theory: a Primer

Tobias Uller / Heikki Helanterä
  • Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki
  • Other articles by this author:
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Published Online: 2013-09-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/ngi-2013-0003


Evolutionary biology traditionally equates inheritance with transmission of genes from parents to offspring. However, recent literature calls for considering ‘non-genetic inheritance’ in evolutionary theory. These calls have met with substantial scepticism. What is more, they appear to have caused further confusion both with respect to what inheritance is and what types of inheritance mechanisms are evolutionarily consequential. Building on previous work, we make use of the Price Equation to outline a general discussion of how non-genetic inheritance can affect phenotypic change within populations, exemplified by epigenetic inheritance. This shows that integrating non-genetic inheritance in evolutionary theory will require specific attention to the developmental processes that shape the relationship between the fitness of parents and the phenotype of their offspring.

Keywords: Heredity Price Equation Maternal effects Parental effects Plasticity

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About the article

Received: 2013-07-10

Accepted: 2013-08-22

Published Online: 2013-09-17

Citation Information: Non-Genetic Inheritance, Volume 1, Pages 27–32, ISSN (Online) 2084-8846, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/ngi-2013-0003.

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©2013 Tobias Uller et al., licensee Versita Sp. z o. o. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/), which means that the text may be used for non-commercial purposes, provided credit is given to the author.. This content is open access.

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