Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:David Rudnick
Title:Hyperadaptation–Another Missing Term in the Science of Form
Degree:Master of Arts
Committee Chair: Richard M. Burian
Committee\ Members:
Keywords:hyperadaptation, adaptation, exaptation, evolutionary biology, corneal endothelium
Date of defense:April 28, 1997
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


In a 1982 paper, Gould and Vrba argue that a conflation of the two components of adaptation of a feature, historical development of the feature and present utility, has caused evolutionists to overlook a missing term in the science of form, which they call 'exaptation'. In the present project, I show that evolutionary biology still contains a confusion in the use of 'adaptation' due to an inappropriate perception of the interaction between the two components of adaptation. Because of the confusion, evolutionists have missed another term in the science of form. Evolutionary theory, specifically the treatment of adaptation, would profit from the introduction of a term referring to features that have a selective history which causes them to appear overly well adapted to their present function. I suggest we refer to these features as hyperadaptations, since they appear to be hyperbolized adaptations. By introducing hyperadaptation into the conceptual framework of adaptation, we can sharpen our understanding of related concepts (adaptation to function, exaptation, maladaptation, etc.) and remove or reduce some confusion regarding the interplay between analysis of historical pathways and ascriptions of (current) function in the diagnosis of adaptation. Furthermore, the improved framework should allow evolutionists to more adequately explain biological phenomena.

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