Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 143–157 | Cite as

A niche for the genome

  • Karola StotzEmail author
  • Paul Griffiths
Book Symposium


In their considered reviews both Thomas Pradeu and Lindell Bromham introduce important topics not sufficiently covered in our book. Pradeu asks us to enlarge on the epigenetic and ecological context of genes, particularly in the form of symbioses. We use the relationship between eukaryotes and their symbiotic organisms as a welcome opportunity to clarify our concept of the developmental niche, and its relationship to the developmental system. Bromham’s comments reveal that she is primarily interested in identifying macroevolutionary patterns. From her vantage point eco-evo-devo, the study of phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic and exogenetic inheritance, have not yet demonstrated the need for any revolutionary change in evolutionary thought. For us they highlight the extent to which proximate developmental mechanisms can inform ultimate biology.


Molecular epigenesis Developmental niche Developmental system Exogenetic inheritance Epigenetics 


  1. Alberts JR (2008) The nature of nurturant niches in ontogeny. Philos Psychol 21(3):295–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bromham L (this issue) What is a gene for? Biol Philos. doi: 10.1007/s10539-014-9472-9
  3. Champagne FA, Weaver ICG, Diorio J, Dymov S, Szyf M, Meaney MJ (2006) Maternal care associated with methylation of the estrogen receptor-1b promoter and estrogen receptor-expression in the medial preoptic area of female offspring. Endocrinology 147(6):2909–2915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fu X-D, Ares MJ (2014) Context-dependent control of alternative splicing by RNA-binding proteins. Nat Rev Genet 15:689–701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gilbert S, Epel D (2009) Ecological developmental biology: integrating epigenetics, medicine, and evolution. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  6. Godfrey-Smith P (2000) On the theoretical role of “genetic coding”. Philos Sci 67(1):26–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Griesemer J (2014) Reproduction and scaffolded developmental processes: an integrated evolutionary perspective. In: Minelli A, Pradeu T (eds) Towars a theory of development. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Griffiths PE (In Press) Proximate and ultimate information in biology. In: Couch M, Pfeiffer J (eds) Festschrifft for Philip Kitcher. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Griffiths PE, Stotz K (2013) Genetics and philosophy: an introduction. In: Ruse M (ed) Cambridge introductions to philosophy and biology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Griffiths PE, Tabery JG (2013) Developmental systems theory: what does it explain, and how does it explain it? In: Lerner RM, Benson JB (eds) Embodiment and epigenesis. Academic Press, Amsterdam, pp 65–94Google Scholar
  11. Griffiths PE, Pocheville A, Calcott B, Stotz K, Kim H, Knight R (2015) Measuring causal specificity. Philos Sci 82(4):529–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jablonka E, Avital E (2001) Animal traditions: behavioural inheritance in evolution. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Jablonka E, Raz G (2009) Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: prevalence, mechanisms, and implications for the study of heredity and evolution. Q Rev Biol 84(2):131–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kitcher P (2003) Battling the undead: how (and how not) to resist genetic determinism. In: Kitcher P (ed) In Mendel’s mirror: philosophical reflections on biology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 283–300Google Scholar
  15. Lynch M (2007) The origin of genome architecture. Sinauer, Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Mayr E (1961) Cause and effect in biology. Science 134(3489):1501–1506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Meaney MJ (2001) Maternal care, gene expression, and the transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity across generations. Ann Rev Neurosci 24:1161–1192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Meaney MJ, Szyf M (2005) Environmental programming of stress responses through DNA methylation: life at the interface between a dynamic environment and a fixed genome. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 7(2):103–123Google Scholar
  19. Odling-Smee FJ, Laland KN, Feldman MW (2003) Niche construction: the neglected process in evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  20. Pradeu T (this issue) Toolbox murders: putting genes in their epigenetic and ecological contexts. Biol Philos. doi: 10.1007/s10539-014-9471-x
  21. Singh RS, Krimbas CB, Paul DB, Beatty J (eds) (2001) Thinking about evolution: historical, philosophical and political perspectives (Festchrifft for Richard Lewontin). Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  22. Stotz K, Griffiths PE (2008) Biohumanities: rethinking the relationship between biosciences, philosophy and history of science, and society. Q Rev Biol 83(1):37–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wade MJ (1998) The evolutionary genetics of maternal effects. In: Mousseau TA, Fox CW (eds) Maternal effects as adaptations. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 5–21Google Scholar
  24. West MJ, King AP (1987) Settling nature and nurture into an ontogenetic niche. Dev Psychobiol 20(5):549–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. West MJ, King AP (2008) Deconstructing innate illusions: reflections on nature-nurture-niche from an unlikely source. Philos Psychol 21(3):383–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations