Eco-evo-devo and iterated learning: towards an integrated approach in the light of niche construction

José Segovia-Martín*, Sergio Balari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


In this paper we argue that ecological evolutionary developmental biology (eco-evo-devo) accounts of cognitive modernity are compatible with cultural evolution theories of language built upon iterated learning models. Cultural evolution models show that the emergence of near universal properties of language do not require the preexistence of strong specific constraints. Instead, the development of general abilities, unrelated to informational specificity, like the copying of complex signals and sharing of communicative intentions is required for cultural evolution to yield specific properties, such as language structure. We argue that eco-evo-devo provides the appropriate conceptual background to ground an account for the many interconnected genetic, environmental and developmental factors that facilitated the emergence of an organic system able to develop language through the iterated transmission of information. We use the concept of niche construction to connect evolutionary developmental accounts for sensory guided motor capacities and cultural evolution guided by iterated learning models. This integrated theoretical model aims to build bridges between biological and cultural approaches.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number42
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2020


  • Cultural evolution
  • Eco-evo-devo
  • Extended evolutionary synthesis
  • Language evolution
  • Niche construction


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