A Mixed Self: The Role of Symbiosis in Development

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Biological Theory, ISSN: 1555-5542, Vol: 6, Issue: 1, Page: 80-88

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Thomas Pradeu
Springer Nature, Springer
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Since the 1950s, the common view of development has been internalist: development is seen as the result of the unfolding of potentialities already present in the egg cell. In this paper I show that this view is incorrect, because of the crucial influence of the environment on development. I focus on a fascinating example, that of the role played by symbioses in development, especially bacterial symbioses, a phenomenon found in virtually all organisms (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates). I claim that we must consequently modify our conception of the boundaries of the developing entity, and I show how immunology can help us in accomplishing this task. I conclude that the developing entity encompasses many elements traditionally seen as “foreign”, while I reject the idea that there is no possible distinction between the organism and its environment.

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