Niche Construction and Gene-Culture Coevolution: An Evolutionary Basis for the Human Sciences

  • F. John Odling-Smee
  • Kevin N. Laland
  • Marcus W. Feldman
Part of the Perspectives in Ethology book series (PEIE, volume 13)


Traditionally evolutionary theory treats the adaptations of organisms as consequences of a process whereby natural selection moulds organisms to fit pre-established environments. The changes that organisms themselves cause in their own environments are seldom through to be evolutionarily significant. However, active organisms partly create their own selective environments by “niche construction,” and ancestral organisms can pass on legacies of modified natural selection pressures in their environments to their descendants. In this chapter, we build on conventional evolutionary theory by adding niche construction. We argue that the resulting enhanced theory of evolution provides a better basis for understanding how human cultural processes interact with human genetic processes in human evolution, and we discuss how human cultural niche construction may have co-directed, and may still be co-directing, human genetic evolution.


Natural Selection Niche Construction Genetic Inheritance Selective Environment Inheritance System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. John Odling-Smee
    • 1
  • Kevin N. Laland
    • 2
  • Marcus W. Feldman
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Biological AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Sub-Department of Animal BehaviourUniversity of CambridgeMadingleyUK
  3. 3.Department of Biological Sciences Herrin HallStanford University StanfordUSA

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