Zeder, M. A.

One of the challenges in evaluating arguments for extending the conceptual framework of evolutionary biology involves the identification of a tractable model system that allows for an assessment of the core assumptions of the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES). The domestication of plants and animals by humans provides one such case study opportunity. Here, I consider domestication as a model system for exploring major tenets of the EES. First I discuss the novel insights that niche construction theory (NCT, one of the pillars of the EES) provides into the domestication processes, particularly as they relate to five key areas: coevolution, evolvability, ecological inheritance, cooperation and the pace of evolutionary change. This discussion is next used to frame testable predictions about initial domestication of plants and animals that contrast with those grounded in standard evolutionary theory, demonstrating how these predictions might be tested in multiple regions where initial domestication took place. I then turn to a broader consideration of how domestication provides a model case study consideration of the different ways in which the core assumptions of the EES strengthen and expand our understanding of evolution, including reciprocal causation, developmental processes as drivers of evolutionary change, inclusive inheritance, and the tempo and rate of evolutionary change.