Aristotle (Aristotle et al., 2008). However, Charles Darwin was the first to articulate a scientific argument based on extensive observations for a theory of evolution through natural selection. Darwin’s theory contains three basic tenets: individuals within a group are variable, variations are heritable, and not all individuals survive (Darwin, 1859). Survival is based on selective advantages that particular phenotypic characteristics or behaviors confer to some individuals within a given environmental context. Although in Darwin’s time our understanding of the brain was in its infancy and Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance were little appreciated, Darwin’s assertions regarding evolution through natural selection of adaptive traits, were, and still are, compelling.
Recently our understanding of the mechanisms underlying evolution has become more sophisticated, and we appreciate that slight variations in gene sequence can be correlated with alterations of traits and behaviors within and across species. However, an important but often overlooked distinction is the difference between the targets of selection (i.e., phenotypic variations) vs. what natural selection passes on to the next generation (i.e., genes). Although genes are the heritable part of the equation and have a causal, although not always direct, link with some characteristic of the phenotype, genes are not the targets of selection. Genes are indirectly selected for because they covary with the targets of selection, and if the target of selection is adaptive, then genes or portions of the genome replicate and produce a long line of descendants. The direct target of selection is multilayered but can be thought to center around the individual and the unique phenotypic characteristics and behaviors that it displays. These characteristics include external morphology such as color, size, jaw configuration, digit length, and bone density, to name a few. This physical variability in the phenotype is also accompanied by variability in behavior, such as utilization of individual specialized body parts, as well as more complex whole-animal behavior such as intraspecies communication. Based on the assumption that the gene’s success is due not only to the individual’s success but to its effects on the world, Dawkins (1978) proposed the idea of an “extended phenotype,” wherein a gene can find its expression in the body of the next generation or in a created environment that perpetuates its success. For example, bowers built by bowerbirds are variable and have variable success in attracting mates. Inasmuch as the structure of the bower is linked to the phenotypic expression of some behavior that has causal links to one or several genes, the bower is part of an extended phenotype of the bowerbird. Thus, phenotypic expression can occur outside of the individual’s body and include inanimate objects used for niche construction and can even include the social niche constructed by differential behaviors of individuals within a population. Because the measure of evolutionary success is reproduction, it follows that the targets