Adolf Portmann (1897–1982)

Portmann was a Swiss biologist who studied the biological meanings of the external appearance of organisms in the first half of the 20th century. He showed that there are a large number of conspicuous structures, patterns and colours on the surfaces of the bodies of animals, which were very frequently formed as a means of communication within the species and between species (called address phenomena). However, in addition to address phenomena, nonaddress phenomena occur in nature, which Portmann considered to be manifestations of a general tendency of all organisms towards self-presentation. In my opinion, a great many of these structures were formed as a consequence of autoelection and, in organisms that are not equipped with sight, as a form of warning or masking coloration. From the standpoint of spreading any newly formed alleles, it is certainly advantageous if they increase the viability of their bearers. However, it is even more advantageous if there is an external indication of their presence in the genome (such as a red spot on the tail), which opens the possibility of very rapid spreading through autoelection. After the Second World War, German biology (and all works written in German) were completely pushed aside by American biology, as a consequence of which the aspects introduced, e.g., by Portmann, remained practically unknown to modern biologists who are thus not greatly affected by these works.

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The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more