A1 Journal article (refereed)
Biological adaptation in light of the Lewontin–Williams (a)symmetry (2022)

Fromhage, L., & Houston, A. I. (2022). Biological adaptation in light of the Lewontin–Williams (a)symmetry. Evolution, 76(7), 1619-1624. https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.14502

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Fromhage, Lutz; Houston, Alasdair I.

Journal or series: Evolution

ISSN: 0014-3820

eISSN: 1558-5646

Publication year: 2022

Publication date: 11/05/2022

Volume: 76

Issue number: 7

Pages range: 1619-1624

Publisher: Wiley

Publication country: United States

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.14502

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/81081


Neo-Darwinism characterises biological adaptation as a one-sided process, in which organisms adapt to their environment but not vice versa. This asymmetric relationship – here called Williams’ asymmetry – is called into question by Niche Construction Theory, which emphasises that organisms and their environments often mutually affect each other. Here we clarify that Williams’ asymmetry is specifically concerned with (quasi-) directed modifications towards phenotypes that increase individual fitness. This directedness – which drives the adaptive fit between organism and environment – entails far more than the mere presence of cause-effect relationships. We argue that difficulties with invoking fitness as the guiding principle of adaptive evolution are resolved with an appropriate definition of fitness and that objections against Williams’ asymmetry reflect confusions about the nature of biological adaptation.

Keywords: evolution; natural selection; adaptation (change); environment; environmental changes

Free keywords: Williams’ asymmetry

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2022

Preliminary JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 13:21