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Is there any adaptive behaviour in non humans which, when it is functioning as it was selected to do, creates a spandrel behaviour?

In evolutionary biology, a spandrel is a phenotypic characteristic that is a byproduct of the evolution of some other characteristic, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection

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One of the first example of spandrel that has been suggested by Gould was the genitalia of hyenas. At the time the term was created, behavioural consequences of having a big brain was a common example and of course, this does not concern only humans but many other animals.

The riddles on the knuckles is another example (that is not specific to humans only either). Those riddles are a by-product of the need the make movement with your fingers.

I am personally not a big fan of the term spandrel as used in evolutionary biology. This term easily leads to limit cases and it depends on how you define the phenotypic traits and the functions they serve.

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  • $\begingroup$ then everything i a byproduct of some need. eyes -- byproduct of the need to catch prey. something wrong with that attitude... $\endgroup$ – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Apr 18 '15 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think indeed that this kind of terminology easily lead to some issue. But the example of the eyes doesn't jump to my intuition as being a by-product of catching prey. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Apr 18 '15 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ i am over-stretching argument here. maybe, vision example is bad, but i do see general problem with such definition like for spandrel. $\endgroup$ – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Apr 18 '15 at 20:16
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While some academics contrive spandrels or non-adaptive byproducts to account for human art and religion, actual empirical support in the scientific literature for non-adaptive byproducts, behavioral or otherwise, is virtually non-existent. The few papers that tackle this question tend to criticize the concept. In Adaptations, Exaptations, and Spandrels, lead author David Buss (1998) says, "Hypotheses about functionless by-products must meet rigorous scientific standards." (p. 542) He concludes, "We could not find a single example of an empirical discovery made about humans as a result of using the concepts of exaptations or spandrels." (p. 545)

Several proposed examples of possible phenotypic non-adaptive byproducts are male nipples, the navel, and the female hyena's gentalia, which is very male-like. However, there is no analysis in the peer-reviewed literature that meets the scientific criteria for these to be accepted as legitimate non-adaptive byproducts, and there are good reasons why they are not non-adaptive byproducts. The non-adaptive byproduct or spandrel is much like the way in which religion solves the mysteries of life: it is inappropriately utilized to construct answers in the absence of better explanations.

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