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Evolvability is defined as the capacity of a system for adaptation and adaptive evolution. Adaptive evolution is possible by generation of heritable phenotypic variation. Evolvability is the ability of a population of organisms to generate genetic diversity and phenotypic variation, so that it can evolve through natural selection.

Organisms must achieve a balance between robustness and evolvability, that is, between resisting and allowing change. Too much robustness would destroy the ability to adapt to changing conditions, too much evolvability would destroy resilience and persistence.


  • Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart, Evolvability, PNAS July 21 vol. 95 no. 15 (1998) 8420-8427
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