International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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MONDAY, JULY 6  /  19:00 - 20:30  /  Salle Marie Gérin-Lajoie
Could Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen’s conceptions of evolution in the 1940’s be related to the idea of “phenotypic plasticity”?

Cintia Graziela Santos (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil)

According to some authors such as Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd B. Müller (2010) the phenomenon named today as phenotypic plasticity was not considered by the Modern Synthesis. Besides that, it is claimed that in the book first published in Russian by Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen (1884-1963), in 1947, there can be found some ideas closer to this phenomenon. This book was translated to English in 1949 by Isadore Dordick and edited by Theodosius Dobshansky (1900-1975), one of the architects of the Modern Synthesis. At that time, it was considered that the book aimed to show the factors which could explain how evolution takes place. Schmalhausen was criticized for including in its bibliography only Russian-papers and presenting a language often obscure. Besides that, despite presenting interesting ideas he did not provide evidence for supporting them. The aim of this work is departing from the analysis of Factors of evolution: the theory of stabilizing selection to discuss Schmalhausen’s ideas on evolution trying to elucidate whether it contains conceptions which could be related to what is known today as phenotypic plasticity. The present analysis showed that although this term was not present in the book and the author was main concerned with the roles of natural selection (stabilizing and dymamic) in evolution, it is possible to find some ideas related to phenotypic plasticity. For instance, Schmalhausen considered both internal and external factors as being relevant since they could enable or limit phenotypic evolution. He also considered the reaction norm in a similar way as Richard Wolterek’s one. Relating the reaction norm to ecological and developmental components, he got closer to the current concept of developmental reaction norm. However, this was not his main concern in the book.