Spandrel (biology) – Wikipedia

July 10, 2018

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.

The term “spandrel” originated as an architectural word for the roughly triangular space between the tops of two adjacent arches and the ceiling. These spaces were not actually utilized until later on, when artists realized they could make designs and paint in these small areas, enhancing the overall design of the building.

Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin brought the term into biology in their influential[1] 1979 paper “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme”.[2] This defined the biological concept and argued the case for a structuralist view of evolution.