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When studying selection during adaptation to novel environments, researchers have often paid little attention to an organism’s earliest developmental stages. Despite this lack of attention, early life history traits may be under strong selection during colonization, as the expression of adaptive phenotypes at later points is contingent upon early survival. Moreover, the timing of early developmental transitions can constrain the timing of later transitions, with potentially large effects on fitness. In this issue, Huang et al. (2010) underscore the importance of early life history traits in the adaptation of Arabidopsis thaliana to old-field sites in North America. Using a new population of mapped recombinant inbred lines, the authors examined germination timing and total lifetime fitness of A. thaliana while varying site latitude, dispersal season, and maternal photoperiod. Huang et al. (2010) discovered several Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) with large effects on fitness that colocalized with QTL for field germination timing and seed dormancy—demonstrating that fitness is genetically associated with these early life history traits, and that these loci are likely under strong selection during adaptation to novel environments. In the epistatic interactions of some loci, recombinant genotypes outperformed parental genotypes, supporting the potentially adaptive role of recombination. This study provides elegant evidence that traits expressed early in an organism’s development can play an important role during adaptive evolution.