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"Novelty" gene

Richard Hall rhall at uvi.edu
Wed Jan 3 12:32:27 EST 1996


Your point is well taken.

I doubt anyone questions the role of inheritance in the formation of
personality or any other aspect of our being.  Yet, we are more than the
sum of genes on a string.

For example, the principle of emergent properties suggests that as a system
becomes more complex it tends to develop new, unexpected characteristics.
Once speech became possible, natural selection rapidly selected genes that
exploited the novelty and thus shaped the future of our species and its
social structures.  But the functional outcome of natural selection is
always a phenotype.  It gets a bit sticky when a gene product influences
multiple phenotypes, but then that is why we have neurosciences,
biochemists, and evolutionary biologists, etc.

There is another aspect of genetic legacy that deserves consideration.  I
seem to recall an article in Science years ago that reported the existance
of "alfala gene products" in mammalian genomes.  Real or not, we probably
retain genetic information that is no longer used in an original context.
This genetic talus may provide a wealth of evolutionary insights,
demonstrate the power of natural selection to shape the new for the old, or
both. And besides, just because we carry genetic information for salad
toppings doesn't mean it has to make sense.

Identification of a "novelty seeking" gene provides one more piece for the
puzzle.  Eventually we will identify the functions of every gene in our
genome and I am willing to wager that the human phenotype will still
outnumber the human genotype.

"Still Glad to Be a Physiologist"

Richard Hall
Comparative Animal Physiologist
Division of Sciences and Mathematics
University of the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas, USVI  00802

rhall at uvi.edu

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