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Essay: The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate

In 1830, a dispute erupted in the halls of lÕAcad mie des Sciences in Paris between the two most prominent anatomists of the nineteenth century. Georges Cuvier and tienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, once friends and colleagues at the Paris Museum, became arch rivals after this historical episode. Like many important disputes in the history of science, this debate echoes several points of contrasts between the two thinkers.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Theories

John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Evolution and Tinkering" (1977), by Francois Jacob

In his essay Evolution and Tinkering, published in
Science in 1977, Francois Jacob argued that a common analogy
between the process of evolution by natural selection and the
methods of engineering is problematic. Instead, he proposed to
describe the process of evolution with the concept of
bricolage (tinkering). In this essay, Jacob did not deny the
importance of the mechanism of natural selection in shaping complex
adaptations. Instead, he maintained that the cumulative effects of

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Human Evolution Inferred from Tooth Growth and Development

To study human evolution, researchers sometimes use microstructures found in human teeth and their knowledge of the processes by which those structures grow. Human fetusus begin to develop teeth in utero. As teeth grow, they form a hard outer substance, called enamel, through a process called amelogenesis. During amelogenesis, incremental layers of enamel form in a Circadian rhythm. This rhythmic deposition leaves the enamel with microstructures, called cross-striations and striae of Retzius, which have a regular periodicity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Discovery of The Dikika Baby Fossil as Evidence for Australopithecine Growth and Development

When scientists discovered a 3.3
million-year-old skeleton of a child of the human lineage (hominin) in
2000, in the village of Hadar, Ethiopia, they were able to study growth
and development of Australopithecus
afarensis, an extinct hominin species. The team of researchers,
led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, named the fossil DIK 1-1 and nicknamed
it Dikika baby after the Dikika research site. The Dikika fossil

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis (1938-2011)

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis was an American biologist, whose work in the mid-twentieth century focused on cells living together in a mutually advantageous relationship, studied cells and mitochondria in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. She developed a theory for the origin of eukaryotic cells, that proposed two kinds of structures found in eukaryotic cells mitochondria in animals, and plastids in plantsÑwere once free-living bacteria that lived harmoniously and in close proximity to larger cells, a scenario called symbiosis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Theories

Ernst Haeckel's Biogenetic Law (1866)

The biogenetic law is a theory of development and evolution proposed by Ernst Haeckel in Germany in the 1860s. It is one of several recapitulation theories, which posit that the stages of development for an animal embryo are the same as other animals' adult stages or forms. Commonly stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the biogenetic law theorizes that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of that species' past evolutionary forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution" (1987), by Rebecca Louise Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Charles Wilson

In 1987 Rebecca Louise Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Charles Wilson published Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution in the journal Nature. The authors compared mitochondrial DNA from different human populations worldwide, and from those comparisons they argued that all human populations had a common ancestor in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) is a small circular genome found in the subcellular organelles, called mitochondria.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

"On the Origin of Mitosing Cells" (1967), by Lynn Sagan

On the Origin of Mitosing Cells by Lynn Sagan appeared in the March 1967 edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At the time the article was published, Lynn Sagan had divorced astronomer Carl Sagan, but kept his last name. Later, she remarried and changed her name to Lynn Margulis, and will be referred to as such throughout this article. In her 1967 article, Margulis develops a theory for the origin of complex cells that have enclosed nuclei, called eukaryotic cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

"Testing the Kin Selection Theory: Who Controls the Investments?" from The Ants (1990), by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson

In “Testing the Kin Selection Theory: Who Controls the Investments?” Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson discussed the predictive power of kin selection theory, a theory about the evolution of social behaviors. As part of Hölldobler's and Wilson's 1990 book titled The Ants, Hölldobler and Wilson compared predictions about the reproductive practices of ants to data about the reproductive practices of ants. They showed that the data generally supported the expected behaviors proposed by kin selection theory.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Edward Drinker Cope's Law of Acceleration of Growth

The Law of Acceleration of Growth is a theory proposed by Edward Drinker Cope in the US during the nineteenth century. Cope developed it in an attempt to explain the evolution of genera by appealing to changes in the developmental timelines of organisms. Cope proposed this law as an additional theory to natural selection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme" (1979), by Stephen J. Gould and Richard C. Lewontin

The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm:
A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme, hereafter called
The Spandrels, is an article written by Stephen J. Gould and
Richard C. Lewontin published in the Proceedings of the Royal
Society of London in 1979. The paper emphasizes issues with
what the two authors call adaptationism or the adaptationist
programme as a framework to explain how species and traits evolved. The paper
is one in a series of works in which Gould emphasized the

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Richard Woltereck's Concept of Reaktionsnorm

Richard Woltereck first described the concept of Reaktionsnorm (norm of reaction) in his 1909 paper 'Weitere experimentelle Untersuchungen uber Art-veranderung, speziell uber das Wesen quantitativer Artunterschiede bei Daphniden' ('Further investigations of type variation, specifically concerning the nature of quantitative differences between varieties of Daphnia'). This concept refers to the ways in which the environment can alter the development of an organism, and its adult characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Wilhelm Johannsen's Genotype-Phenotype Distinction

Wilhelm Johannsen in Denmark first proposed the distinction between genotype and phenotype in the study of heredity in 1909. This distinction is between the hereditary dispositions of organisms (their genotypes) and the ways in which those dispositions manifest themselves in the physical characteristics of those organisms (their phenotypes). This distinction was an outgrowth of Johannsen's experiments concerning heritable variation in plants, and it influenced his pure line theory of heredity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics (1924), by Paul Kammerer

The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics is a book published in 1924, written by Paul Kammerer, who studied developmental biology in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics summarizes Kammerer's experiments, and explains their significance. In his book, Kammerer aims to explain how offspring inherit traits from their parents. Some scholars criticized Kammerer's reports and interpretations, arguing that they were inaccurate and misleading, while others supported Kammerer's work.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Dinosaur Egg Parataxonomy

Dinosaur egg parataxonomy is a classification system that organizes dinosaur eggs by descriptive features such as shape, size, and shell thickness. Though egg parataxonomy originated in the nineteenth century, Zi-Kui Zhao from Beijing, China, developed a modern parataxonomic system in the late twentieth century. Zhao's system, published in 1975, enabled scientists to organize egg specimens according to observable features, and to communicate their findings.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Germ-Plasm: a Theory of Heredity (1893), by August Weismann

Friedrich Leopold August Weismann published Das
Keimplasma: eine Theorie der Vererbung (The Germ-Plasm: a
Theory of Heredity, hereafter The Germ-Plasm) while
working at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany in 1892.
William N. Parker, a professor in the University College of South
Wales and Monmouthshire in Cardiff, UK, translated The
Germ-Plasm into English in 1893. In The Germ-Plasm,
Weismann proposed a theory of heredity based on the concept of the

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Charles Darwin's Theory of Pangenesis

In 1868 in England, Charles Darwin proposed his pangenesis theory to describe the units of inheritance between parents and offspring and the processes by which those units control development in offspring. Darwin coined the concept of gemmules, which he said referred to hypothesized minute particles of inheritance thrown off by all cells of the body. The theory suggested that an organism's environment could modify the gemmules in any parts of the body, and that these modified gemmules would congregate in the reproductive organs of parents to be passed on to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Neural Crest

Early in the process of development, vertebrate embryos develop a fold on the neural plate where the neural and epidermal ectoderms meet, called the neural crest. The neural crest produces neural crest cells (NCCs), which become multiple different cell types and contribute to tissues and organs as an embryo develops. A few of the organs and tissues include peripheral and enteric (gastrointestinal) neurons and glia, pigment cells, cartilage and bone of the cranium and face, and smooth muscle.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Germ Layers

A germ layer is a group of cells in an embryo that interact with each other as the embryo develops and contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues. All animals, except perhaps sponges, form two or three germ layers. The germ layers develop early in embryonic life, through the process of gastrulation. During gastrulation, a hollow cluster of cells called a blastula reorganizes into two primary germ layers: an inner layer, called endoderm, and an outer layer, called ectoderm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Mitochondria

All cells that have a nucleus, including plant, animal, fungal cells, and most single-celled protists, also have mitochondria. Mitochondria are particles called organelles found outside the nucleus in a cell's cytoplasm. The main function of mitochondria is to supply energy to the cell, and therefore to the organism. The theory for how mitochondria evolved, proposed by Lynn Margulis in the twentieth century, is that they were once free-living organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Theories

Molecular Epigenetics and Development: Histone Conformations, DNA Methylation and Genomic Imprinting

Introduced by Conrad Hal Waddington in 1942, the concept of epigenetics gave scientists a new paradigm of thought concerning embryonic development, and since then has been widely applied, for instance to inheritable diseases, molecular technologies, and indeed the human genome as a whole. A genome contains an embedded intricate coding template that provides a means of genetic expression from the initial steps of embryonic development until the death of the organism. Within the genome there are two prominent components: coding (exons) and non-coding (introns) sequences.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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