Functional biologists, like Claude Bernard, ask “How?”, meaning that they investigate the mechanisms underlying the emergence of biological functions (proximal causes), while evolutionary biologists, like Charles Darwin, asks “Why?”, meaning that they search the causes of adaptation, survival and evolution (remote causes). Are these divergent views on what is life? The epistemological role of functional biology (molecular biology, but also biochemistry, physiology, cell biology and so forth) appears essential, for its capacity to identify several mechanisms of natural selection of new characters, individuals and populations. Nevertheless, several issues remain unsolved, such as orphan metabolic activities, i.e., adaptive functions still missing the identification of the underlying genes and proteins, and orphan genes, i.e., genes that bear no signature of evolutionary history, yet provide an organism with improved adaptation to environmental changes. In the framework of the Extended Synthesis, we suggest that the adaptive roles of any known function/structure are reappraised in terms of their capacity to warrant constancy of the internal environment (homeostasis), a concept that encompasses both proximal and remote causes.

Biochemistry and physiology within the framework of the extended synthesis of evolutionary biology

PASSAMONTI, SABINA
2016

Abstract

Functional biologists, like Claude Bernard, ask “How?”, meaning that they investigate the mechanisms underlying the emergence of biological functions (proximal causes), while evolutionary biologists, like Charles Darwin, asks “Why?”, meaning that they search the causes of adaptation, survival and evolution (remote causes). Are these divergent views on what is life? The epistemological role of functional biology (molecular biology, but also biochemistry, physiology, cell biology and so forth) appears essential, for its capacity to identify several mechanisms of natural selection of new characters, individuals and populations. Nevertheless, several issues remain unsolved, such as orphan metabolic activities, i.e., adaptive functions still missing the identification of the underlying genes and proteins, and orphan genes, i.e., genes that bear no signature of evolutionary history, yet provide an organism with improved adaptation to environmental changes. In the framework of the Extended Synthesis, we suggest that the adaptive roles of any known function/structure are reappraised in terms of their capacity to warrant constancy of the internal environment (homeostasis), a concept that encompasses both proximal and remote causes.
http://biologydirect.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13062-016-0109-6
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11368/2865347
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