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Pleiotropy as the Mechanism for Evolving Novelty: Same Signal, Different Result


In contrast to the probabilistic way of thinking about pleiotropy as the random expression of a single gene that generates two or more distinct phenotypic traits, it is actually a deterministic consequence of the evolution of complex physiology from the unicellular state. Pleiotropic novelties emerge through recombinations and permutations of cell-cell signaling exercised during reproduction based on both past and present physical and physiologic conditions, in service to the future needs of the organism for its continued survival. Functional homologies ranging from the lung to the kidney, skin, brain, thyroid and pituitary exemplify the evolutionary mechanistic strategy of pleiotropy. The power of this perspective is exemplified by the resolution of evolutionary gradualism and punctuated equilibrium in much the same way that Niels Bohr resolved the paradoxical duality of light as Complementarity.

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