The evolutionary consequences of niche construction: a theoretical investigation using two-locus theory

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Abstract

This paper addresses the joint evolution of environment-altering (niche constructing) traits, and traits whose fitness depends on alterable sources of natural selection in environments. We explore the evolutionary consequences of this niche construction using a two-locus population genetic model. The novel conclusions are that niche construction can (1) cause evolutionary inertia and momentum, (2) lead to the fixation of otherwise deleterious alleles, (3) support stable polymorphisms where none are expected, (4) eliminate what would otherwise be stable polymorphisms, and (5) influence disequilibrium. The results suggest that the changes that organisms bring about in their niche can themselves be an important source of natural selection pressures, and imply that evolution may proceed in cycles of selection and niche construction.

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