Tingergen’s 4 questions

Niko Tinbergen

Niko Tinbergen

The Nobel prize winning ethologist, Nikko Tinbergen pointed out that there were four different types of evolutionary question – what something evolved from (historical or phylogenetic); how something developed during ontogeny and so became a ‘trait’ (ontogenetic); how something ‘worked’ (proximate or mechanistic); and why it evolved (functional, selective, and ultimate). These categories can be very useful for being precise about questions in human evolution.

Tinbergen's 4 questions in evolution

Tinbergen’s 4 questions in evolution