[Paleopsych] From Eshel--A Glitch in Genetic-centrism

Val Geist kendulf at shaw.ca
Mon Mar 28 18:40:03 UTC 2005

Dear Howard,


Eschel is right. This is exciting stuff, especially if the RNA hypothesis holds. However, there is something in mammals that relates to reverting to the grand-parental genetic expression, or great- great parental genetic expression , or great- great- great parental genetic expression - and not to the parental one! And we have no clue about the mysterious mechanism. The phenomenon was dubbed - not surprisingly - the "grand parent effect". It showed that he adaptive expression of genes in individuals was not that to their immediate environment, but to that of their grand or great-grand or great-great ..etc. parents. How is it possible that the ova and sperm retain the environmental memory of up to four generations past? Or is it something about the phenotype incubating in gestation its progeny that affect it? We do not know! The phenomenon was first discovered in the late 1930's by an exceedingly gifted amateur biologist, though chemist by training, when he was experimenting with red deer, trying to increase trophy size. Quite unexpectedly, the deer did not respond fully to the luxury food he offered, rather they responded with increases in body and antler size stepwise, each generation being larger in size than the preceding one - for five generations! About 30 years later it was re-discovered in mice and rats, showing that the nutrition experienced by grand parents and earlier generation still affected the phenotype of the now-generation. In short, genetic expression was based on phenotypic experiences and was stored for several generations, and this multi-generational gene-environment communication affected the offspring. 

Now, there is a wonderfully logical - adaptive - explanation for this. Remember the maintenance - dispersal phenotype axis? (or, if you prefer paedomorph - hypermorph, efficiency - luxury etc). The norm in populations is maintenance conditions that is of hunger, shortages, severe intra- and inter-specific competition for resources etc., to which the maintenance, paedomorph or efficiency phenotype is closely and effectively adapted. However, nature's ecological vagaries are such that now and a gain a year or two of abundance and luxury comes along. An individual conceived then - clearly - must not be a dispersal, hypermorph or luxury phenotype because it would be woefully maladaptive under the regular conditions of shortages and severe competition for resources. The adaptive thing to do is to wait and see and alter offspring towards dispersal, hypermorph or luxury phenotypes only if luxury conditions continue to prevail. That, however, is the signal for the very rare - excruciatingly rare, but supremely important - case of vacant habitat being available where the dispersal phenotype is highly adaptive to spread the parental genomes! That's all in Chapter six of my 1978 Lifestrategies .. book entitled "How Genes Communicate with the Environment - the Biology of Inequality".


Coming back to humans: it is possible that the phenomenon of secular growth, in which the offspring generations over a long time span exceed the parent generation in size, is part and parcel of this gene-environment communication, with old environmental information stored for influencing the next generations ontogeny. Secular growth can be predicted to come to a halt when we have reached, on average, the body mass, size and development of our Upper Paleolithic Ice Age ancestors. That is, it will stop when men average a bit over six feet in height (and brain size exceeds our by about 20%) - and we are some time off from that! Five- eight, so I understand, is the height of men currently in North America.  Secular growth has been going on since the middle of the 19th century, the nadir having been reached during the preceding industrial revolution. As stated befoer, there is no clue as to mechanism!


Val Geist

Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science



  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: HowlBloom at aol.com 
  To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org ; kurakin1970 at yandex.ru ; ursus at earthlink.net ; paul.werbos at verizon.net 
  Sent: Sunday, March 27, 2005 10:48 PM
  Subject: [Paleopsych] From Eshel--A Glitch in Genetic-centrism

   Deinococcus radiodurans is able to withstand the shattering and spattering force of radioactivity by keeping many apparently super-condensed backup copies of its genome, then rebuilding whatever genomic sequences that have been destroyed.

  If a genome is the most economical summation of a species past possible, how can it be condensed into a backup copy?  Is there, as Joel Isaacson suggest, an Ur pattern, an implicit pattern from which a mashed gene can be re-extracted?  Does the deciphering of an ancient pattern, an implicit pattern, an Ur-pattern, change as the context that extracts it changes?

  Is the context of the still-unfazed genome, of the cytoplasm, of the cell membrane, and of the signals coming from neighboring and distant cells an extractor capable of re-deducing the implicit healthy gene when a mutated gene has gone off-track?

  Can evolution take a step back to retrace its earlier moves?

  Is the radiodurans backup mechanism an after-the-fact condensation of the genome--a symbolic representation of the genome?  Or is it a remnant of something that preceded the genome?

  Eshel, you speak of RNA as the possible backup mechanism.   RNA is the evolutionary precursor of DNA if the RNA-world hypothesis is true.  Do you think that what was once derived from RNA can be derived again?  

  Is this pattern a sort of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny?

  And if the complexities and intricate forms and functions of the present have been pulled from the implications of the past, what even more elaborate futures will be extracted from the implications of today?  Howard

  In a message dated 3/24/2005 10:07:42 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, eshel at physics.ucsd.edu writes:
    Hi, Interestiing news, Eshel

    I sent yesterday the message below to several people in the Weizmann following a paper in Nature that I think is a most important discovery. personaly I feel very good as it supports my long objection to the current Neo-darwinian paradigm. It also indicates that the community in biology is now finally open to revolutionary ideas related to evolution. These discoveries might also ilustrate one example of organisms learning not through the DNA sequence.

    {Attached is a new paper that appear in Nature. Being myself  against the central paradigm I find the discoveries potentially a mark of a new era. I might be dramatizing but may be not. I am quite surprised and pleased that Nature let them publish the paper and if you note the dates within 6 weeks from receiving it. Note also the possible connection with microRNA . 

    It will be interesting if the media will realise the revolutionary aspects or not. 

    If they do, it will probably lead to a flood of serious and "vitalistic" reactions.

    In this regard I also attached a paper entitled "New biology for a new century"

    I apologize if I am carried away but felt like sharing with you my excitement about these discoveries. There are many open questions. The first one is if it is a special mechanism for plants only or shared by animals as well (it is known that smallRNA have different mechanisms in plant).


    Eshel Ben-Jacob. 
                                       Home Page: http://star.tau.ac.il/~eshel/
    Professor of Physics
    The Maguy-Glass Professor                  
    in Physics of Complex Systems      
    eshel at tamar.tau.ac.il    ebenjacob at ucsd.edu                                   

    Former President of the Israel Physical Society (IPS)
    Head the scientific board of PhysicaPlus http://physicaplus.org.il
    The IPS Online Bi-lingual Magazine                    

    School of Physics and Astronomy                10/2004 -10/2005                                                
    Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel      Center for Theoretical Biological Physics 
    Tel 972-3-640 7845/7604 (Fax) -6425787      University of California San Diego   
                                                                                    La Jolla, CA 92093-0354 USA 
                                                                        Tel (office) 1-858-534 0524 (Fax) -534 7697

  Howard Bloom
  Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century
  Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
  Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive editor -- New Paradigm book series.
  For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: www.paleopsych.org
  for two chapters from 
  The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
  For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net


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