PerspectiveHypothesis

Epigenetics and the evolution of instincts

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Science  07 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6333, pp. 26-27
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam6142

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Summary

An animal mind is not born as an empty canvas: Bottlenose dolphins know how to swim and honey bees know how to dance without ever having learned these skills. Little is known about how animals acquire the instincts that enable such innate behavior. Instincts are widely held to be ancestral to learned behavior. Some have been elegantly analyzed at the cellular and molecular levels, but general principles do not exist. Based on recent research, we argue instead that instincts evolve from learning and are therefore served by the same general principles that explain learning.