Butterfly mimicry rings – a case of natural selection?

Since Darwin’s time mimicry is presented as one of the best example of the efficiency of natural selection. Several species should have been shaped by natural selection to resemble or mimic dangerous or poisonous species. It is supposed that protected by their shape and coloration they deceive their predators. Thus mimicry confers them survival advantage. In many cases mimicry is believed to be found among butterflies where palatable species mimic unpalatable ones (so called Batesian mimicry). In some cases two or more unpalatable species look alike. In this case they should be protected more effectively because their predators learn to avoid them only once. This is called Müllerian mimicry. And in some cases there is a whole bunch of Batesian and Müllerian mimics that look alike. This is called the mimicry ring.
Continue reading

Adolf Portmann and two poles of Vertebrata

Professor Adolf Portmann (27.V.1897 Basel – 28.VI.1982), Swiss zoologist and anthropologist. Former Rector of University of Basel.
His name is listed among fifteen “great names, great achievements” of Basel University next to Paracelsus, Bernoulli or Nietzsche (1). He is sometimes considered to be one of the most original biological thinkers of the twentieth century (2)(3). There has been a revival of interest in his work recently (2)(3)(4). Those who are interested in his thoughts about self-representation of species (Selbstdarstellung), own appearance (eigentliche Erscheinung) etc… should try his New paths in biology (5). I will just focus on one aspect of his legacy – form development and polarization of nerve and reproductive centres in Vertebrata. This issue may be of interest because it aroused noteworthy response of some Neodarwinian apologists.
Continue reading

Wilhelm Troll and German Idealistic Morphology.

Wilhelm Troll ( 1897 München – 1978 Mainz), German morphologist who acquired international recognition (1). Since 1932 professor of botany at University Halle, 1946-1966 at Mainz. Author of many publications and textbooks. (2). ‘He provided the first general view on the diversity of plant form, and influenced German morphology for decades. At least 16 of his disciples have held a professorship in Germany and have passed on his typological concept’.(3)

Continue reading

Franz Heikertinger’s rejection of natural selection

Franz Heikertinger (7.VI.1876 Wien – 24.X.1953), an Austrian entomologist. A corresponding member of many scientific societies, secretary of the Zoological and botanical society Wien and the chairman of the Department of Entomology  (Sektion für Entomologie), editor of the “Koleopterologische Rundschau”. His extensive work regarding systematics and mimicry are listed on more than eight  pages (1). Franz Heikertinger strongly rejected “natural selection” as the explanation of the evolution of mimicry. His discussions with “selectionists” can be found in many journals that are available on-line nowadays (2).

It is almost impossible to summarize Heikertinger’s work about mimicry in such a limited place. Yet I will try to outline his main ideas regarding the non-effectiveness of mimicry.

Continue reading

John Davison’s Evolutionary Manifesto

Professor John A. Davison (1928-2012), American biologist. His “Evolutionary manifesto: A new hypothesis for organic change” (2000) is one of the most inspiring works concerning evolution. The treatise is dedicated to the memory of six great scientists: William Bateson, Leo S. Berg, Robert Broom, Richard B. Goldschmidt, Pierre Grassé and Otto Schindewolf. Professor Davison continues in the tradition founded by these great scholars. He not only sumarizes their main evolutionary ideas that oppose (neo)darwinism, but proposes his own evolutionary mechanism: semi-meiotic hypothesis. Far from being able to reproduce all arguments and details of his work I recommend everyone study it for themselves. His work is available on his blog (1), on his old home page at University Vermont (2) as well as on Uncommon descent (3).

  Continue reading

Richard Goldschmidt and the Controversial Chapter of Darwinism.

Richard Goldschmidt  (1878 Germany – 1958 USA) , geneticist, professor at the University of Munich and later  University of California, Berkeley. Member of  the National Academy of Science and in 1953 Elected President of the Ninth International Congress of Genetics. “Brilliant but unorthodox geneticist” according to Richard Milner (1990) (1).

 In Goldschmidt’s view the gradual accumulation of small mutations  was sufficient for microevolution, but insufficient for macroevolution.  For speciation (macroevolution), a different mechanism is required. In The Material Basis of Evolution (1940), Goldschmidt proposed systemic mutation – “a change of intrachromosomal pattern” – and developmental macromutations, popularly known as the “Hopeful Monster” hypothesis.
Continue reading

Ludwig von Bertalanffy and ‘the Tibetan prayer mills of selectionism’.

Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy (19.IX.1901 Austria – 12.VI.1972 USA) was a theoretical biologist and the father of General System Theory (1). He played an important role in the intellectual history of the twentieth century (2). He was the member of Deutsche Akademie für Naturforscher Leopoldina (Halle), the New York Academy of Sciences, he held positions at the University of Vienna (1934-48), the University of Ottawa (1950-54), the Mount Sinai Hospital (Los Angeles) (1955-58), the University of Alberta (1961-68), State University of New York (SUNY) (1969-72) (3). According to (2) “Ludwig von Bertalanffy is mainly remembered as the originator of the open systems theory in biology, an organismic theory which rejected both the mechanistic and the vitalistic explanations of life processes .”

Continue reading