Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Evolvability: A New and Unifying Concept in Evolutionary Biology?


Former 2019/2020 Natural Sciences - Medicine - Mathematics


Evolution by natural selection requires that organisms are evolvable. This makes evolvability, the propensity to evolve, a fundamental concept in evolutionary theory. Yet, for most of the history of evolutionary biology, evolvability was taken for granted and not itself a subject of study. Since about 1990, however, there has been a flood of research on evolvability from several perspectives, but the different interpretations and approaches that have emerged from molecular, developmental and evolutionary biology pose a challenge.

In this CAS project, we will evaluate the past 25 years of research in order to understand evolvability as one of the unifying concepts of the "extended synthesis" of evolutionary theory. We will gather researchers from different disciplines that have been instrumental in the study of evolvability to synthesize what we have learned with a special focus on the historical and philosophical context that influenced the emergence of the concept. Our goal is to unify the approaches of different research fields into a synthetic multidisciplinary research program on the potential for evolution.


  • Armbruster, W. Scott
    Professor University of Portsmouth 2019/2020
  • Basanta, Silvia
    PhD Candidate Complutense University of Madrid 2019/2020
  • Bourg, Salomé
    Dr. University of Oslo (UiO) 2019/2020
  • Brigandt, Ingo
    Professor University of Alberta 2019/2020
  • Bråte, Jon
    Researcher University of Oslo (UiO) 2019/2020
  • Grabowski, Mark
    Senior Researcher Liverpool John Moores University 2019/2020
  • Houle, David
    Professor Florida State University 2019/2020
  • Hunt, Gene
    Professor National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution 2019/2020
  • Le Rouzic, Arnaud
    Researcher French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) 2019/2020
  • Liow, Lee Hsiang
    Associate Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 2019/2020
  • Love, Alan
    Professor University of Minnesota 2019/2020
  • Lynch, Michael
    Professor Arizona State University 2019/2020
  • Morrissey, Michael
    Associate Professor University of St. Andrews 2019/2020
  • Nuño de la Rosa, Laura
    Dr. Complutense University of Madrid 2019/2020
  • Opedal, Øystein
    Dr. University of Helsinki 2019/2020
  • Pavlicev, Mihaela
    Professor University of Vienna 2019/2020
  • Payne, Joshua L.
    Assistant Professor ETH Zürich 2019/2020
  • Porto, Arthur
    Postdoctoral Fellow University of Oslo (UiO) 2019/2020
  • Sztepanacz, Jacqueline
    Assistant Professor University of Toronto 2019/2020
  • Tsuboi, Masahito
    Dr. University of Oslo (UiO) 2019/2020
  • Villegas, Cristina
    PhD Candidate Complutense University of Madrid 2019/2020
  • Voje, Kjetil
    Dr. University of Oslo (UiO) 2019/2020
  • Wagner, Gunter
    Professor Yale University 2019/2020

Previous events


Group leader

  • Thomas Fredrik Hansen

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 1996/19972019/2020
  • Christophe Pelabon

    Title Professor Institution Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Year at CAS 2019/2020

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