Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lamark: A Little Right After All

Offspring of predator-stressed mothers grow their wings more quickly than chicks from predator-free females
Female birds that are exposed to predators while they are ovulating produce smaller offspring than unexposed females, researchers have found. The chicks may be smaller, but surprisingly, their wings grow faster and longer than those of chicks from unexposed mothers — an adaptation that might make them better at avoiding predators in flight.
Lamarckism (or Lamarckian inheritance) is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring (also known as heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance). It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories. He is often incorrectly cited as the founder of soft inheritance, which proposes that individual efforts during the lifetime of the organisms were the main mechanism driving species to adaptation, as they supposedly would acquire adaptive changes and pass them on to offspring.
Lamark has had a rather bad rap as a scientist, and yes, he was mostly wrong, but it appears, as in many cases, biology is more complicated than rocket science, and no one theory explains everything.

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