Biology 2016, 5(2), 19; doi:10.3390/biology5020019
The Cell as the First Niche Construction
John S. Torday
Evolutionary Medicine, UCLA, Westwood, CA 90502, USA
Academic Editors: Chris O’Callaghan and Jukka Finne
Received: 17 February 2016 / Revised: 14 April 2016 / Accepted: 18 April 2016 / Published: 28 April 2016
Niche construction nominally describes how organisms can form their own environments, increasing their capacity to adapt to their surroundings. It is hypothesized that the formation of the first cell as ‘internal’ Niche Construction was the foundation for life, and that subsequent niche constructions were iterative exaptations of that event. The first instantation of niche construction has been faithfully adhered to by returning to the unicellular state, suggesting that the life cycle is zygote to zygote, not adult to adult as is commonly held. The consequent interactions between niche construction and epigenetic inheritance provide a highly robust, interactive, mechanistic way of thinking about evolution being determined by initial conditions rather than merely by chance mutation and selection. This novel perspective offers an opportunity to reappraise the processes involved in evolution mechanistically, allowing for scientifically testable hypotheses rather than relying on metaphors, dogma, teleology and tautology.
Keywords: niche construction; evolution; teleology; epigenetic
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