Developmental Plasticity and Evolution
The high level of plasticity shown by children today was also a feature of our forechildren. Experiences early in life can modify the morphology or behavior of an animal and result in new pressures that can be the focus of natural selection. Behavior, in fact, takes the lead in evolution, because it is more susceptible to change than morphology or genes. Most of the changes early in development, at least for mammals, were accomplished in the presence of mothers. To a significant extent, mothers are the environment for young mammals, making mothers the environment for evolutionary change. Significant behavioral changes in evolution are most likely to occur in large-brained animals, who are better able to deal with novel environments through innovation and social transmission of information than smaller-brained animals.
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