The extended phenotype (EP) was first proposed by Richard Dawkins in 1982. It attempts to explain how and why an organism manipulates its environment through its genes (Hunter, 2009) "The genes of an organism can be expressed beyond their immediate biological boundaries, such as skin, shells or leaves." (Hunter, 2009) It can include such constructs as birds nests or beaver dams. The better a nest or dam is built is dependent on the alleles (genes) of the builder. The forces of natural selection can then act upon these genes to either allow the organism to reproduce, thereby replicating the gene, or delete them from the gene pool.
In Dawkins' words, "Replicators (genes) are not, of course, selected directly, but by proxy; they are judged by their phenotypic effects." (Dawkins, 1982)
Dawkins, R. (1982) The extended phenotype:The long reach of the gene. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Hunter, P. (2009) Extended phenotype redux: How far can the reach of genes extend in manipulating the environment of an organism? EMBO Reports, Volume 10: 212-215. http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v10/n3/full/embor200918.html
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