It seems that during reproduction particular genes are targeted for modification (mutation, deletion, insertion, etc.) given environmental inputs of either or both of the parents.

If a creature was fit given its environment, its seems there is little mutation. However, if the creature becomes less fit (i.e, due to increasingly becoming prey to a predator) it will undergo increased rate of mutation to find a successful adaption to the new environment. But it seems that the mutation is also targeted to particular genes that maybe most beneficial to mutate (i.e, to develop camouflage).

This begs the question - given environmental inputs, is there something that controls gene modification during reproduction? More specifically, is there a process that targets a specific gene or trait?

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    $\begingroup$ Before the rants are coming in from the evolutionists and geneticists shooting this question to pieces because evolution is not a teleological thing - isn't it indeed so that certain loci are hot spots for mutations while others are conserved thereby allowing evolution in certain directions? +1 $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Christiaan Doesn't it has some connection with Epigenetics? $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Christiaan Then that should be the question and not the question as is. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Christiaan I think you're right; there is a good question and premise here. But it needs an edit to make that clearer. It's not clear as it stands. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ @TalhaIrfan I came across Epigenetics again for a quick refresher. It seems I wasn't completely off-base with my premise. $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2016 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


Mutations are not performed targeting a specific new phenotype. There is no way an organism can "know" the impact of a specific future mutation anyway. A mutation is just a mistake in the replication process. As a consequence the majority of mutations are deleterious and only a handful of mutations are beneficial.

It is true though that the mutation rate can be affected by the environment or the stress induced by an individual (Agrawal 2002). It seems more intuitive that these are just a consequences of the cost of the DNA replication machinery and DNA repair machinery but it is not impossible that such changes in mutation rate could eventually evolve as a bet-hedging strategy. In the extreme case where the same types of environmental change happen over and over again, it is not impossible that a lineage could evolve the ability to modify the mutation rate at a particular locus. However, to my knowledge this has never been found.

You might want to follow an introductory course to evolutionary biology. You might also want to read this post too that gives a mixture of related information

  • $\begingroup$ It turns out there is some level of targeted mutation, but not direct mutation of genes. Without mutating any of the underlying DNA, environmental inputs can affect the repressors of a gene, resulting in altered gene expression in reproduction. $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2016 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ Predicting the protein interactions based on a DNA change, let alone overall organism traits and impacts, is far beyond the processing power of any system except reality itself. You can think of evolution as brute forcing problems with a vulnerability to partial solving. Obligatory: xkcd.com/1605 $\endgroup$
    – wedstrom
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 20:06

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