Multiple modes of canalization: Links between genetic, environmental canalizations and developmental stability, and their trait-specificity

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The robustness of biological systems against mutational and environmental perturbations is termed canalization. Because reducing phenotypic variability under environmental and genetic perturbations can be adaptive and facilitated by natural selection, it has been suggested that once canalization mechanisms have evolved to buffer the effects of environmental perturbations, they may act to buffer any and all sources of variation. Although whether canalization mechanisms are general or specific to the types of perturbation or phenotypic traits that they buffer is often addressed, the links between different canalization mechanisms remain unclear. In this review, three major sources of phenotypic variation, associated canalization concepts and indicators of the degree of canalization are first outlined. Then, the molecular bases of canalization mechanisms based on recent empirical studies are overviewed. Finally, the links between the underlying processes of different canalization mechanisms are explored.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Buffering
  • Capacitor
  • Heritability
  • Phenotypic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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