SpeakersDr Karola Stotz, University of Sydney
University of ExeterEgenisByrne HouseSt Germans RoadExeter, EX4 4PJ
Room: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Epigenetics, Parental Effects, and Ontogenetic Niche Construction: A Philosophical Analysis of Extended InheritanceIn recent years a range of diverse inheritance mechanisms have come to light that are usually studied by separate research fields under names such as epigenetics, facultative and non-facultative gene imprinting, parental effects, and niche construction. The talk argues that all of theses disparate mechanisms can be combined under the overall concept of developmental niche construction or extended inheritance. The reproduction of the developmental system is the result of the reliable availability of a wide range of developmental resources necessary to reconstruct the organism’s life cycle. Inheritance systems allow for the reliable transmission of crucial information from parents to offspring. Developmental niche-constructing mechanisms in organisms provide both reliability and flexibility in the provision of these resources. Organisms have developed a range of strategies to manage aspects of their own or their offspring’s developmental environment to guide the developmental process. Part of this developmental niche is the complex network that regulates the time- and tissue dependent expression of genes. Maternal gene products (RNA, transcription factors, enzymes), cytoplasmic chemical gradients, the membranous architecture, and the chromatin code of the genome (the epigenome) are all inherited together with the genome. A myriad of maternal and paternal (parental) effects such as ovipositioning, nutritional provisioning, and rearing practices continue to influence gene expression levels and other developmental processes until adulthood. All of these processes can be understood as the adaptive and context-dependent transgenerational transmission of phenotypic strategies.