Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Early 20th Century Evolutionist May Have Discovered Epigenetics

Date:
September 3, 2009
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
A new study may help end the controversy surrounding Lamarckian experimentalist Paul Kammerer. The study suggests that far from being a fraud, Kammerer may have discovered the field of epigenetics.

A new study into the research of the renowned Lamarckian experimentalist Paul Kammerer may help to end the controversy which has engulfed his research for almost a century. The study, published in The Journal of Experimental Zoology, suggests that far from being a fraud Kammerer may have discovered the field of epigenetics, placing him decades ahead of his contemporaries.

Related Articles


Paul Kammerer, a leading proponent of the Lamarckian theory of evolution, achieved global prominence in the 1920's by arguing that acquired traits could be passed down through generations. In his most controversial experiment, Kammerer forced midwife toads, a species that lives and mates on land, to live in water. Their offspring preferred to live and mate in water and by the third generation he noted that they began to develop black nuptial pads on their forelimbs, a feature common to water dwelling species.

In 1926 Kammerer fell into disgrace when it was found that his only remaining fixed specimen had been injected with India ink to produce the appearance of the black nuptial pads. Kammerer's own role in the alleged fraud has never been proven, but six weeks after its discovery he committed suicide. Eventually, a naturally occurring specimen with nuptial pads was found, demonstrating that midwife toads do have the potential to develop them.

Now Dr. Alexander Vargas, from the University of Chile, has re-examined Kammerer's experiments finding remarkable resemblances to newly discovered aspects of epigenetics, a flourishing new field of science which studies influences in inheritance beyond the DNA sequence.

"Today Kammerer's scientific legacy is non-existent and he is often cited as an example of scientific fraud," said Vargas. "However, the specific similarities of Kammerer's experiments to epigenetic mechanisms are very unlikely to have been the result of his imagination. These new biological arguments provide a modern context suggesting that Kammerer could be the actual discoverer of epigenetic inheritance."

Vargas has studied Kammerer's evidence, as summarized in his 1920's research notes, and found that Kammerer reported hybrid crosses of treated and untreated toads in which 'parent-of-origin effects' can be observed, a recurrent phenomenon in epigenetics. Kammerer also reported that his toads developed larger bodies than untreated land toads and that their eggs were smaller and contained less egg-yolk than normal. These are traits that are known to be influenced by epigenetic mechanisms. Building on these observations Vargas proposes a preliminary model based on current knowledge of epigenetics to explain the midwife toad experiments, which illustrates how in a modern context an explanation can be offered for results which appeared utterly mysterious to Kammerer and his contemporaries.

Kammerer's consistency with current epigenetic mechanisms provides new and compelling biological arguments in favour of the authenticity of the midwife toad experiments.

"New experimentation on this species with the advantage of modern molecular-genetic tools could mean an end to the controversy," added Vargas. "If Kammerer's data is correct, the midwife toad holds the potential of becoming an excellent model system for studying epigenetics and especially its evolutionary implications."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vargas A. Did Paul Kammerer discover epigenetic inheritance? A Modern look at the controversial midwife toad experiments. J Exp Zool Mol Dev Evol, 2009

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Early 20th Century Evolutionist May Have Discovered Epigenetics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090902195234.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2009, September 3). Early 20th Century Evolutionist May Have Discovered Epigenetics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090902195234.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Early 20th Century Evolutionist May Have Discovered Epigenetics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090902195234.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins