Contingency and determinism in evolution: Replaying life’s tape

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Science  09 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6415, eaam5979
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5979

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Replaying the tape of life

The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould once dreamed about replaying the tape of life in order to identify whether evolution is more subject to deterministic or contingent forces. Greater influence of determinism would mean that outcomes are more repeatable and less subject to variations of history. Contingency, on the other hand, suggests that outcomes are contingent on specific events, making them less repeatable. Blount et al. review the numerous studies that have been done since Gould put forward this question, both experimental and observational, and find that many patterns of adaptation are convergent. Nevertheless, there is still much variation with regard to the mechanisms and forms that converge.

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