Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Development: The missing link between exaptationist and adaptationist accounts of organismal design

William Michael Brown a1
a1 Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4J1, Canada [email protected]


To understand adaptation (and exaptation), a more comprehensive view of development is required: one beyond a constraining force. Developmental plasticity may be an adaptation by natural selection simultaneously favored (or sometimes in conflict) at multiple levels of biological organization (e.g., cells, individuals, groups, etc.). To understand the interrelationships between developmental plasticity and adaptive evolution I borrow heavily from West-Eberhard (2003) and Frank (1995; 1997). Developmental plasticity facilitates evolution, results in particular patterns of evolutionary change, and may produce exaptations by design rather than by chance.