Spandrel (biology)

Spandrel (Biology)

Spandrel (biology)

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In evolutionary biology, a Spandrel is a phenotypic characteristic that is a byproduct of the evolution of some other character, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection. The term was coined by the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould and population geneticist Richard Lewontin in their influential paper "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme" (1979).

In this paper Gould and Lewontin employed the analogy of spandrels in Renaissance architecture: curved areas of masonry between arches supporting a dome that arise as a consequence of decisions about the shape of the arches and the base of the dome, rather than being designed for the artistic purposes for which they were often employed. Properties that they singled out were the necessary number of four and their specific three-dimensional shape. In the biological sense, a 'spandrel' or 'exaptation' (as Gould and Lewontin referred to them) might be the result of an architectural requirement inherent in the Bauplan of an organism, or to some other constraint on adaptive evolution. In Gould’s and Vbra’s (1982) theory of exaptation, exaptations were characteristics that enhance fitness in their present role but were not built for this role by natural selection and may be divided into two subcategories; preadaptation and spandrels. Spandrels are characteristics that did not originate by the direct action of natural selection and that were later...
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