Capturing the facets of evolvability in a mechanistic framework

Jana M. Riederer*, Stefano Tiso*, Timo J.B. van Eldijk*, Franz J. Weissing*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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‘Evolvability’ – the ability to undergo adaptive evolution – is a key concept for understanding and predicting the response of biological systems to environmental change. Evolvability has various facets and is applied in many ways, easily leading to misunderstandings among researchers. To clarify matters, we first categorize the mechanisms and organismal features underlying evolvability into determinants providing variation, determinants shaping the effect of variation on fitness, and determinants shaping the selection process. Second, we stress the importance of timescale when studying evolvability. Third, we distinguish between evolvability determinants with a broad and a narrow scope. Finally, we highlight two contrasting perspectives on evolvability: general evolvability and specific evolvability. We hope that this framework facilitates communication and guides future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-439
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number5
Early online date10-Feb-2022
Publication statusPublished - May-2022


  • adaptive capacity
  • evolutionary potential
  • rate of evolution
  • degree of adaptation
  • genotype–phenotype map

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