Paul Kammerer conducted experiments on amphibians and marine animals at the Vivarium, a research institute in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Kammerer bred organisms in captivity, and he induced them to develop particular adaptations, which Kammerer claimed the organismss offspring would inherit. Kammerer argued that his results demonstrated the inheritance of acquired characteristics, or Lamarckian inheritance. The Lamarckian theory of inheritance posits that individuals transmit acquired traits to their offspring. Kammerer worked during a period in which scientists debated how variation between organisms and within species was caused, and how organisms could inherit that variation from their parents. Kammerer contended that the inheritance of acquired characteristics occurs during embryological development, but several scientists argued that he provided poor evidence for his claims.

In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, experimented on sea-squirts (Ciona intestinalis). Kammerer claimed that results from his experiments demonstrated that organisms could transmit characteristics that they had acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments on sea-squirts and other organisms at a time when Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution lacked evidence to explain how offspring inherited traits from their parents. In 1809, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France theorized that living beings can inherit the features their parents or ancestors acquired during those ancestor's lifetime, a theory called the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Kammerer attempted to provide evidence for the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, which constituted, he argued, the mechanics of evolution. Kammerer claimed that his results could explain evolutionary processes through developmental phenomena.