Human major transitions from the perspective of distributed adaptations

Ehud Lamm*, Meir Finkel, Oren Kolodny*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Distributed adaptations are cases in which adaptation is dependent on the population as a whole: the adaptation is conferred by a structural or compositional aspect of the population; the adaptively relevant information cannot be reduced to information possessed by a single individual. Possible examples of human-distributed adaptations are song lines, traditions, trail systems, game drive lanes and systems of water collection and irrigation. Here we discuss the possible role of distributed adaptations in human cultural macro-evolution. Several kinds of human-distributed adaptations are presented, and their evolutionary implications are highlighted. In particular, we discuss the implications of population size, density and bottlenecks on the distributed adaptations that a population may possess and how they in turn would affect the population's resilience to ecological change. We discuss the implications that distributed adaptations may have for human collective action and the possibility that they played a role in colonization of new areas and niches, in seasonal migration, and in setting constraints for minimal inter-population connectivity. This article is part of the theme issue 'Human socio-cultural evolution in light of evolutionary transitions'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210401
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1872
Early online date2023
StatePublished - 13 Mar 2023


FundersFunder number
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
Israel Science Foundation1826/20


    • collective action
    • collective decision making
    • collective memory
    • extended mind
    • group selection
    • niche construction


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