Lamarck on Genome Research (2004).

I came across this cover of the journal Genome Research from 2004.

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon where expression of a gene in this generation depends on whether it resided in a male or female the previous generation, a Lamarckian-like inheritance (portrait: Jean Baptiste Lamarck). Comparative phylogenetic footprint analysis of mammalian species from the nonimprinted monotremes (purple region) and the imprinted marsupials (magenta region) and eutherian mammals (pink region) was used to identify putative cis-acting elements (sequence shown) involved in the origins and evolutionary maintenance of genomic imprinting. Members of the oviparous monotremes (echidna and platypus) and viviparous marsupials (opossum) and eutherians (mouse, lemur, and human) are pictured.

It does not bother me that people want to rescue Lamarck’s reputation — he deserves vastly more respect than he currently gets for his major contributions to taxonomy and evolutionary biology. What bothers me is the effort to present anything remotely resembling the inheritance of acquired characters as Lamarckian. This is just bad history for several reasons, given that Lamarck rejected any direct input from the environment and that the inheritance of acquired traits was not original to Lamarck. It’s disappointing to see a journal fall for this in the same way that others have.


9 comments to Lamarck on Genome Research (2004).

  • PhDP

    Well, to be fair, Lamarck seemed to understood natural selection, he just didn’t believe it mattered.

    Darwin was certainly not the first to discover selection, not even natural selection. It seems to me that people like Buffon, Lamarck and Malthus had at least as many good ideas about evolution than Darwin, and Lamarck, in particular, had surprisingly advanced ideas. But, unlike Lamarck, Darwin published his book at the right time and people were much more receptive to his ideas.

    Darwin was unable to explain how selection worked and many rejected Darwinism before Yule, Fisher, Wright, Haldane and others saved selection by integrating it into a coherent framework. They were the first to truly understand the mechanisms of evolution, but of course their work isn’t very sexy (unless you enjoy maths and theory as much as I do).

    In my opinion, it would be much better if scientists stopped being so obsessed about Lamarck and Darwin. 90% of the time, when I read an article with a reference to Darwin or Lamarck, it seems like a cheap ploy to artificially inflate the historical importance of the paper.

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  • Marc

    Just curious: who then invented the idea of inheritance of acquired characters?

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  • Vronvron

    Marc

    “It is actually historically misleading to ascribe the idea of inheritance of acquired characters to Lamarck: it is an ancient idea which dates back as far as Plato.”

    http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/
    ridley/a-z/Lamarckian_inheritance.asp

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  • Shinka

    …but this is the same thing with selection, it was well-understood even before the 19th century, but nobody thought selection was important for evolution.

    Although, if I remember correctly, Buffon, and not Lamarck, was the first to discuss of acquired inheritance in the context of evolution.

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    I think the main issue is that the “Lamarck was right after all” line, which is very popular when covering epigenetics, is lazy history. Lamarck made a lot of contributions, but the precursor to the idea heritable epigenetic modulation is not one of them. As for the earlier ideas of selection and inheritance of acquired traits, please consult:

    Natural selection before Darwin
    Lamarck didn’t say it, Darwin did

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  • Vronvron

    Re: “Lamarck didn’t say it, Darwin did.”

    See “How the giraffe got its long neck II” at whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com

    “Wallace, not Darwin first broached the issue from the natural selection side”

    Therefore, the confusion stems from who gets the credit; it is a naming issue: the Lamarckian theory of acquired characters and the Darwinian theory of evolution.

    As I mentioned in my comment to “Again with the Lamarckism…,” research for a first year general science course and much later, Janet Browne’s two volume biography of Darwin makes it clear that we should refer to the Darwin/Wallace theory of evolution.
    Darwin was initially too timid to publish and after the Linnean Society paper of 1858 was too timid or disinterested to insist on equal credit.

    Rider: This of course is the view of a non-scientist, but is the view of an observer who reads widely and well.

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    Actually, Wallace himself referred to it as Darwinism.

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  • paul hill

    A word forgotten in cancer research is cell dedifferentiation, going backward as they

    become more malignant, using less and less oxygen, expressing receptors of an earlier time

    in embryogenesis going forwad.  They go from endocrine to juxtacrine to paracrine to

    autocrine.  If a blastula used oxygen and one of it’s totipotent cells incurred ROS damage

    to DNA, the mutations could spread right through the three germ lines and into many

    different cell types.  Blastula cells inserted into just about any part of a mouse’s body

    become tumours.  During male bird and lizard embryogenesis the primordial germ cells grow

    distal to the seminiferous tubules then migrate to the tubules and enter therein by a

    process so similat to metastasis that it IS metastasis.  Fill in the gaps in between and

    no Weismann barrier.  Everybody is looking under the wrong rock.  Then answers are in

    CANCER which is a gross stuff up of all of the mechanisms of evolution and VERY complex.
    See eHealth.Forum Breast Cancer Nodules for more and a lot more to come.

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  • paul hill

    As I couldn’t edit the above I’m posting upgrade.
    A word ‘forgotten’ in cancer research is cell dedifferentiation, going backward as they become more malignant, using less and less oxygen (the Warburg effect), expressing growth receptors of anearlier time in embryogenesis going forward. They go from endocrine stimulated to juxtacrine to paracrine to autocrine i.e. become more autonomous. If a blastula used oxygen and one of it’s totipotent cells incurred ROS damage to DNA, the mutations could spread right through the three germ lines and into many different cell types. Would a hypothetical ‘wild type’ cancer go back, though a series of metastasis, to a blastula like ‘organism’. Blastulas contain within it’s blastacoel primordial germ cells, one example of dedifferentiation. Blastula cells inserted into just about any part of a mouse’s body become tumours. During male bird and lizard embryogenesis the primordial germ cells grow distal to the seminiferous tubules then migrate to the tubules and enter therein by a process so similar to metastasis that it IS metastasis. Fill in the gaps in between and no Weissman barrier. Everybody is looking under the wrong rock. The answers, in mammals at least, are in CANCER which is a gross stuff up of all of the mechanisms of evolution and VERY complex unlike the puerile, simplistic accidental mutation in the ‘germ plasma’ which might just happen to be selected for if DAWKINS is right.
    Lots of my stuff on eHealth.forum Breast Cancer Nodules. Starting 4th April after my lock out for blasphemy expires breastcancer.org Alternative Therapy ‘Why Research CANNOT Find Cure’ Nodules. Already a good line up of support and ridicule posts wondering where I am. Hoping big Pharma and researchers get sucked in to get rid of this evil pest once and for all before he has an adverse effect on bottom line. Should be good for a giggle.  Might have to stick my head in a gas oven if I’ve got it all ballsed up.

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