By Jay S Rosenblatt

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In a changing environment the conservative pragmatic component of the phylogenetic heuristic ceases to be sufficient. Both the population’s present and future became different from its past, so that which used to be fit in the past may no longer be fit in the present. There is therefore some irreducible conflict between two components of fitness. In addition, no members of a population can ever know what their future will bring, so that in the last analysis the population can only proceed blindly (Campbell, 1974).

First, there is the generation of variance by devices that are well known. In every population there are the fundamental mechanisms of genetic mutation for replenishing its reserve of variants. There are then a number of supplementary processes that allow a population both to increase realized variance as well as to carry cryptic variance within the gene pool (that is, a reserve of variants that are either not expressed, or are only partly expressed in the current generation). These are the processes of sexual reproduction itself, gene interactions, and polymorphism including those due to neutral alleles, epistasis, and genetic homeostasis (Dobzhansky , 1970; Lerner, 1954; Thoday, 1975).

The greater the dispersal of the population, and the more homogeneous the environment, then the more likely it will be that the conservatism of the heuristic will be based on a “representative” sampling of the environment, in which case the greater will be the probability that the adaptations that are conserved will continue to prove adaptive as the population disperses into other temporal and spatial regions of the environment. Conversely, the more localized the population, and the more heterogeneous the environment, then the more likely it will be that the conservatism of the heuristic will be based on a “biased” sample of the environment, in which case the greater will be the probability that the previously acquired adaptations of the members of the population will no longer be adaptive as the population moves into future environments.

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