Term Paper - Niche Construction as a Driving Force of...

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Niche Construction as a Driving Force of Evolution, Not Just a Byproduct Brittany Renee Tolentino Anthropology 120 Professor J. Manson Spring 2010
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Tolentino Asserting Niche Construction as a Driving Force of Evolution, Not Just a Consequence Although it is not a new concept, the niche construction theory has caused much debate over the role organisms play in their own evolution. Conventional evolution theories state that natural selection, the driving force of evolution, selects for certain adaptations of organisms that better suit it to survive in a specific environment. Thus, the causal arrow points in one direction only such that environments, the source of selection, determine the features of living creatures (Laland et al. 2006). As cited by Laland et al., George Williams (1992, p. 484) states, “Adaptation is always asymmetrical; organisms adapt to their environment, never vice versa” (2006). Adaptation is defined as the process by which natural selection shapes organisms to fit preexisting environmental “templates” (Laland et al. 2006). However, this idealization of natural selection fails to account for the interactions between organisms and their environments. Niche construction is defined as the process whereby organisms, through their metabolism, their activities, and their choices, modify their own and/or others’ niches (Odling-Smee et al. 2003 cited by Laland et al. 2006). Thus, niche construction is not necessarily organism-driven modification of the environment per se, but rather modification of the relationship between an organism and its relative niche (Odling-Smee et al. 2003 cited by Laland et al. 2006). This definition creates many problems for the supporters of the conventional evolutionary theory because it suggests that natural selection can in fact work via organisms acting upon the environment to change and modify it so that the environment fits their needs. This completely negates what conventional evolutionary theorists believe as exemplified by Williams because it suggests that the environment adapts to the organisms. In their 2006 paper, Laland et al. argues there are seven reasons why 1
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conventional evolutionists do not believe niche construction is a driving force of evolution. This paper will seek to focus on three of those seven arguments which can be said to provide the most definitive proof that niche construction needs to be considered more than just an evolutionary byproduct. Laland et al. states that conventional evolutionists refute niche construction as a driver of evolution because it is only an effect of natural selection, it does not bring about adaptation and is not a single phenomenon and occurs over many evolutionary steps (2006). These three factors are what this paper seeks to refute and show evidence that they are false accusations. The first count held against niche construction states that niche construction
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2010 for the course ANTHRO 111456202 taught by Professor Josephmanson during the Spring '10 term at UCLA.

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Term Paper - Niche Construction as a Driving Force of...

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