ID 5969 0906
Issues in Evolution Paper Two
Phenotypic Plasticity and the Lamarckian Problem
There is little argument today that the early concept of evolution based upon the heritability of acquired characteristics, from here on out to as Lamarckian inheritance, is an unsuitable explanation of evolutionary processes. When the modern evolutionary synthesis was established, Lamarkism was largely abandoned. However, with Waddington’s (1942) paper, a resurgence of Lamarckian reminiscent discussions began to take place. The premise of these arguments is for recognition of genetic features of phenotypic plasticity, specifically concerning norms of reaction for organisms. While more logical than the idea of Lamarckian inheritance, ideas of phenotypic plasticity are precariously accepted due to the belief that they contradict a Neo-Darwinian model. This paper will try to argue that while similar to Lamarkian inheritance in some aspects, norms of reaction and phenotypic plasticity do not pose an immediate challenge to a Neo-Darwinian convention. The second part of this paper will be dedicated to explaining that while phenotypic plasticity does seem to imply immediate adaptability, its lack of prevalence among species can be explained by benefits organisms achieve in discarding norms of reaction.
Norms of reaction represents the phenotypic expression that an organism displays in correlation to stimulus changes; generally the stimulus is its environment, as in examples given by Potts (1998) and Waddington (1942.) Norms of reaction, as explained by Via and Lande 1985, do not aim to assume that Lamarckian inheritance was a correct concept. Rather, the ideas behind norms of reaction are selection based. As one would...
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... Thus, ideas of plasticity do not threaten a Neo-Darwinian philosophy. Secondly, it should be understood that although phenotypic plasticity has many benefits, it is not the only advantageous approach to phenotypic expression and therefore should not be conceived as relevant only if it is completely pervasive across species. Deleting a norm of reaction and achieving more permanent character states also has many benefits that might outweigh the benefits of a plastic response, and therefore canalization in species persists. Further investigations into the idea of phenotypic plasticity should focus less upon setting inherited plasticity in opposition to the modern synthesis, and instead focus more on ideas that genetic expression and evolution can be affected by multiple levels; from the genetic regulation of a phenotype, to the environment in which the organism lives.
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