2014 Volume 10 Pages 99-108
We propose the cooperative model of phenotype-driven evolution, in which natural selection operates on a phenotype caused by both genetic and epigenetic factors. The conventional theory of evolutionary synthesis assumes that a phenotypic value (P) is the sum of genotypic value (G) and environmental deviation (E), P=G+E, where E is the fluctuations of the phenotype among individuals in the absence of environmental changes. In contrast, the cooperative model assumes that an evolution is triggered by an environmental change and individuals respond to the change by phenotypic plasticity (epigenetic changes). The phenotypic plasticity, while essentially qualitative, is denoted by a quantitative value F which is modeled as a normal random variable like E, but with a much larger variance. Thus, the fundamental equation of the cooperative model is given as P=G+F where F includes the effect of E. Computer simulations using a genetic algorithm demonstrated that the cooperative model realized much faster evolution than the evolutionary synthesis. This accelerated evolution was found to be due to the cumulative evolution made possible by a ratchet mechanism due to the epigenetic contribution to the phenotypic value. The cooperative model can well account for the phenomenon of genetic assimilation, which, in turn, suggests the mechanism of cumulative selection. The cooperative model may also serve as a theoretical basis to understand various ideas and phenomena of the phenotypedriven evolution such as genetic assimilation, the theory of facilitated phenotypic variation, and epigenetic inheritance over generations.