, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 331–343 | Cite as

Distributed Heredity and Development: a Heterarchical Perspective

  • Jana ŠvorcováEmail author


This review paper discusses the perspective of complex biological systems as applied to inheritance and ontogeny, focusing on the continuity of genetic, epigenetic (transgenerational) and microbiotic inheritance. The informational processuality within this continuity can be used as to exemplify the insufficiency of hierarchical concepts in grasping the complex and integrated nature of biological processes. The argument follows Bruni and Giorgi (Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 119, 481–92, 2015) in emphasizing that while structures and substrates are organized hierarchically, communicational processes are organized heterarchically. The essay also argues the insufficiency of a single, basic, i.e. genetic level of description, which is the prevalent idea of twentieth century biology, to explain all phenotypic variation. I argue that inheritance and development cannot be fully explained by some sub- or super-ordination and that such descriptions are merely heuristic tools that do not reflect the nature of such processes.


Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance Microbiota Heterarchy 



This paper was supported by the project Linguistic and lexicostatic analysis in collaboration of linguistics, mathematics, biology and psychology no. CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0161, the Grant Agency of The Czech Republic 13-24275S and also by Charles University in Prague within the UNCE project 204004.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and History of Sciences, Charles UniversityPraha 2Czech Republic

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