The return of the whole organism

  title={The return of the whole organism},
  author={Patrick Bateson},
  journal={Journal of Biosciences},
  • P. Bateson
  • Published 1 February 2005
  • Biology
  • Journal of Biosciences
The long trend towards analysis at lower and lower levels is starting to reverse. The new integrative studies must make use of the resources uncovered by molecular biology but should also use the characteristics of whole organisms to measure the outcomes of developmental processes. Two examples are given of how movement between levels of analysis is being used with increasing power and promise. The first is the study of behavioural imprinting in birds where many of the molecular and neural… 

New thinking about biological evolution

The article focuses on the active role of the organism in the subsequent evolution of its descendants. Choice, control of the environment, adaptability, and mobility all play their part. This growth

Evolution, epigenetics and cooperation

  • P. Bateson
  • Biology, Psychology
    Journal of Biosciences
  • 2013
Bringing together studies of development with those of evolution is taking away much of the heat in the debate about the evolution of group behaviour.

Assessing the prospects for a return of organisms in evolutionary biology.

  • P. Huneman
  • Biology
    History and philosophy of the life sciences
  • 2010
This paper reviews the usual critiques about the way MS treats organisms and shows that the organisms-concerned critique is multifaceted, and uses the controversy about units of selection in order to show that purely conceptual and empirical arguments have been mixed up when organisms were concerned.

The Impact of the Organism on Its Descendants

  • P. Bateson
  • Biology
    Genetics research international
  • 2012
The integration of several disciplines in recent years suggests that the view that an understanding of development is irrelevant to theories of evolution is wrong.

What is life? And what might be said of the role of behaviour in its evolution?

An introduction and overview are provided for a special issue of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society concerning the role of behaviour in evolution, where Behaviour, in its broadest sense, is seen as both the expression and mediator of organismic agency, and must play a key role in the processes of evolution.

Plasticity facilitates rapid evolution

The results suggest that as the difficulty of challenges from the environment become greater, so plasticity exerts an ever more powerful role in meeting those challenges and in opening up new avenues for the subsequent evolution of complex adaptations.

The Return of the Organism as a Fundamental Explanatory Concept in Biology

Although it may seem like a truism to assert that biology is the science that studies organisms, during the second half of the twentieth century the organism category disappeared from biological

Can knowledge of developmental processes illuminate the evolution of parental care?

Variations in rodent maternal behavior affect the development of the HPA and HPG axes in their offspring and these mechanisms are examined to reveal how such developmental variations could underlie the evolution of biparental behavior.

Redesigning the genetic architecture of phenotypically plastic traits in a changing environment

Taking genetic compensation into account could enhance the understanding of the role of behaviour in evolution in at least three ways: first, behavioural interactions are often the source of selection against environmentally induced phenotypes; second, behavioural traits themselves may often be targets of genetic compensation; and third, behavioural plasticity can delay or prevent genetic compensation.

The developmental construction of heredity.

This essay considers how the development-oriented focus that was central to Gottlieb's perspective affects evolutionary theorizing, and, more specifically, it discusses the special status of behaviorally driven evolution.



Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution

The book provides historical background to DST, recent theoretical findings on the mechanisms of heredity, applications of the DST framework to behavioural development, implications of DST for the philosophy of biology, and critical reactions to D ST.

Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution

This book extends evolutionary theory by formally including niche construction and ecological inheritance as additional evolutionary processes, and demonstrates how the theory can resolve long-standing problems in ecology, particularly by advancing the sorely needed synthesis of ecology and evolution.

Developmental plasticity and human health

A fuller understanding of patterns of human plasticity in response to early nutrition and other environmental factors will have implications for the administration of public health.


The purpose of the present communication is to describe an experiment in which the hypothesis that if an animal is subjected to unusual circumstances to which it can react in an adaptive manner, the development of the adaptive character might itself become so far canalised that it continued to appear even when the conditions returned to the previous norm.

Phenotypic Evolution — A Reaction Norm Perspective

The book has one central purpose, to propose and defend the proposition that to understand phenotypesic evolution the authors must take into account phenotypic plasticity, not simply as an interesting peripheral phenomenon but as an integral part of the evolutionary process.

Organization and ontogeny of alternative tactics

Genes, interactions, and the development of behavior.

A developmental model linking the immediate consequence of gene activity to behavior through multiple molecular, cellular, and physiological levels is presented, adding specificity to the claim that neither genes nor experience act alone to shape development.

Gene expression and the evolution of insect polyphenisms †

  • J. EvansD. Wheeler
  • Biology
    BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology
  • 2001
This work discusses polyphenisms and molecular genetic tools now available to unravel their developmental bases in insects and focuses on several recent studies that have tracked gene‐expression patterns during social insect caste determination.

Fetal experience and good adult design.

  • P. Bateson
  • Art
    International journal of epidemiology
  • 2001
The form and behaviour of individuals vary within the same species and, in any given set of environmental conditions, some individuals may be better able to survive and reproduce than others because their distinctive characteristics are particularly well suited to those conditions.


Up to a date still comparatively recent the transmission to offspring, in greater or less degree, of those modifications of habit or structure which the parents had acquired in the course of their