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LaMarck’s Revenge

Peter Ward: Epigenetics explains why there are fewer “species” than we think

Says biologist Peter Ward, because epigenetics changes can account for life forms that have been classified as different species: More and more, biologists are discovering that organisms thought to be different species are, in fact, but one. A recent example is that the formerly accepted two species of giant North American mammoths (the Columbian mammoth and the woolly mammoth) were genetically the same but the two had phenotypes determined by environment. Epigenetics (or heritable epigenetics, or neo-Lamarckism) is a series of different processes that can cause evolutionary changes as well as dictate how organisms develop from a single fertilized egg (in the case of sexually reproducing organisms, at least) to what we look like as adults. Some say it’s just Read More ›

John Hawks is cool to epigenetics shedding light on evolution

John Hawks is an anthropologist we’ve often noted here. In his review of palaeobiologist Peter Ward’s LaMarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics Is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present (“Epigenetics upends natural selection and genetic mutation as the sole engines of evolution, and offers startling insights into our future heritable traits.”), Hawks has this to say about epigenetics: Some scientists have hailed epigenetics as the future of biology, while others denounce it as an empty buzzword. Perhaps no other term inspires so much debate among scientists about how to define it. … But here’s the catch. When it comes to the fossil record, paleontologists have a different idea of “fast” from everyday life. Hundreds of thousands of years is plenty Read More ›