A relay race on the evolutionary adaptation spectrum

Cell. 2015 Oct 22;163(3):549-59. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.10.005. Epub 2015 Oct 22.


Adaptation is the process in which organisms improve their fitness by changing their phenotype using genetic or non-genetic mechanisms. The adaptation toolbox consists of varied molecular and genetic means that we posit span an almost continuous "adaptation spectrum." Different adaptations are characterized by the time needed for organisms to attain them and by their duration. We suggest that organisms often adapt by progressing the adaptation spectrum, starting with rapidly attained physiological and epigenetic adaptations and culminating with slower long-lasting genetic ones. A tantalizing possibility is that earlier adaptations facilitate realization of later ones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology