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CANALIZATION OF DEVELOPMENT AND THE INHERITANCE OF ACQUIRED CHARACTERS

Abstract

THE battle, which raged for so long between the theories of evolution supported by geneticists on one hand and by naturalists on the other, has in recent years gone strongly in favour of the former. Few biologists now doubt that genetical investigation has revealed at any rate the most important categories of hereditary variation ; and the classical 'naturalist' theory-the inheritance of acquired characters-has been very generally relegated to the background because, in the forms in which it has been put forward, it has required a type of hereditary variation for the existence of which there was no adequate evidence. The long popularity of the theory was based, not on any positive evidence for it, but on its usefulness in accounting for some of the most striking of the results of evolution. Naturalists cannot fail to be continually and deeply impressed by the adaptation of an organism to its surroundings and of the parts of the organism to each other. These adaptive characters are inherited and some explanation of this must be provided. If we are deprived of the hypothesis of the inheritance of the effects of use and disuse, we seem thrown back on an exclusive reliance on the natural selection of merely chance mutations. It is doubtful, however, whether even the most statistically minded geneticists are entirely satisfied that nothing more is involved than the sorting out of random mutations by the natural selective filter. It is the purpose of this short communication to suggest that recent views on the nature of the developmental process make it easier to understand how the genotypes of evolving organisms can respond to the environment in a more co-ordinated fashion.

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WADDINGTON, C. CANALIZATION OF DEVELOPMENT AND THE INHERITANCE OF ACQUIRED CHARACTERS. Nature 150, 563–565 (1942). https://doi.org/10.1038/150563a0

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