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preadaptationpre-adaptation (fr.); Präadaptation (ger.)

  • Adaptation beforehand; (Biol.) adaptation to future or subsequent conditions; esp. (in evolutionary biology) adaptation of an organism to its environment or mode of life which occurs fortuitously when a change of conditions results in advantage from a feature previously adapted for some other function. (OED 2012)

    pre-adaptation of the infant to the state of things into which it enters at birth

    Bacheler, O. (1831). [Letter to R.D. Owen, March, 19, 1831]. In: Bacheler, O. & Owen, R.D. (1833). Discussion on the Existence of God, and the Authenticity of the Bible, vol. 1 (2nd ed.), 71-89: 75.

    intelligent pre-adaptation of the body to circumstances foreseen and anticipated before they occur
    Watson, H.C. (1846). [Ref. Chambers, R. (1845). Explanations: A Sequel to Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation]. The Phrenological Journal and Magazine of Moral Science 19, 159-175: 170.
    pre-adaptation to domestication [of the buffalo]
    Henderson, J.G. (1872). The former range of the buffalo. Amer. Nat. 6, 79-98: 79.
    the principle of pre-adaptation—a name which we may appropriately coin to indicate an adaptation made in advance of the time at which it could have arisen in the course of phylogenetic history
    Spencer, H. (1864/98). Principles of Biology, vol. 1: 460 (§130c).

    What has been the solution that the mechanists have attempted to give of this morphological and physiological preadaptation, the purposiveness of which was too evident for them to deny? They have thought to find the explanatory key in Darwin’s natural selection, which owes its great and, originally, almost undisputed success to its attempt to explain in a non- purposive way these phenomena of preadaptation.

    Rignano, E. (1926). Man not a Machine. A Study of the Finalistic Aspects of Life: 30.


    [Es] ist die „Präadaptation“ in Rignano’s Sinne: eine Abfolge von ontogenetischen oder physiologischen oder psychologischen Phänomenen, welche im voraus den Organismus vorbereiten, daß er zukünftigen Umweltbedingungen angepasst ist

    Bertalanffy, L. von (1929). Die Teleologie des Lebens. Biol. gen. 5, 379-394: 390.


    preadaptation The possession by an organism of characters or traits that would favour its survival in a new or changed environment.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 201.