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The Adaptive Landscape in Evolutionary Biology$
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Erik Svensson and Ryan Calsbeek

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595372.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 December 2021

Landscapes, Surfaces, and Morphospaces: What Are They Good For?

Landscapes, Surfaces, and Morphospaces: What Are They Good For?

(p.26) Chapter 3 Landscapes, Surfaces, and Morphospaces: What Are They Good For?
The Adaptive Landscape in Evolutionary Biology

Massimo Pigliucci

Oxford University Press

The adaptive landscape metaphor is one of the most persistent in evolutionary biology, and has generated much theoretical debate (if far less empirical investigation). This chapter briefly traces the history of the concept since its introduction by Sewall Wright in the 1930s. It then distinguishes four types of landscapes pertinent to evolutionary theory: fitness landscapes, adaptive landscapes, fitness surfaces, and morphospaces. These are more or less loosely related to each other, and sometimes the relationship is complex and difficult to explore empirically. The chapter argues that some versions of the landscape metaphor have lost their utility and should be replaced by more sophisticated metaphors, or abandoned altogether. It suggests that — somewhat surprisingly — the most useful type of landscape may turn out to be the morphospace, a concept that allows for a productive bridge between theoretical analyses and empirical results, especially in fields such as palaeontology and evolutionary developmental biology. In particular, the chapter discusses examples from the paleontological literature that constitute instances of truly (and stunningly) predictive theoretical analysis in what is often considered an entirely descriptive historical science.

Keywords:   Sewall Wright, adaptive landscapes, fitness surfaces, morphospaces, palentology

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