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A Critique of Niche Construction Theory  Mar 30, 2017

In a recent article, Dr. Sutirth Dey from IISER Pune, along with researchers from JNCASR, Bangalore and IISER Mohali, have critically analysed the literature on the idea of niche construction (NC) in evolutionary biology and have questioned several claims of the proponents of NC.
 
Niche construction refers to the phenomenon where changes to the environment caused by activities of organisms in turn affects the evolution of the organisms living in that environment. For example, earthworms chemically modify the soil they live in, thereby not only affecting the evolution of their own physiology, but also that of plants and other organisms in the location.
 
From L to R: Dr Sutirth De, Dr Amitabh Joshi, Dr TNC Vidy and Dr NG Prasad
From L to R: Dr Sutirth Dey, Dr Amitabh Joshi, Dr TNC Vidya and Dr NG Prasad

In their article, the authors suggest the following:  (1) the concept of niche construction is already a part of standard theory of evolutionary biology; and (2) selection is a much more important process in evolution than niche construction.
 
This report has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Genetics and is authored by Manan Gupta, N.G. Prasad, Sutirth Dey, Amitabh Joshi and T.N.C. Vidya. In terms of attention received, this paper has been in the top 5% of ~7.5 million papers scored by Altmetric. See here for a detailed analysis of the various claims of the paper by a well-known evolutionary biologist, and here for an article in The Hindu.

 

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