Review article for Experimental Physiology
Revised following referee reports
31 march 2013
Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology
Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics,
Sherrington Building, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PT UK
The “Modern Synthesis” (Neo-Darwinism) is a mid-twentieth century gene-centric view of evolution, based on random mutations accumulating to produce gradual change through natural selection. Any role of physiological function in influencing genetic inheritance was excluded. The organism became a mere carrier of the real objects of selection: its genes. We now know that genetic change is far from random and often not gradual. Molecular genetics and genome sequencing have deconstructed this unnecessarily restrictive view of evolution in a way that reintroduces physiological function and interactions with the environment as factors influencing the speed and nature of inherited change. Acquired characteristics can be inherited, and in a few but growing number of cases that inheritance has now been shown to be robust for many generations. The twenty-first century can look forward to a new synthesis that will reintegrate physiology with evolutionary biology.
Keywords Evolutionary theory, evolutionary biology, Modern Synthesis, Central Dogma, epigenetic inheritance, Lamarckism, transposons.