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Epigenetic effects on the evolution of behavior

Posted on August 16, 2012 by James Kohl.

I watched about 1/2 of this informative video. By then I was convinced that others need only realize that it’s the pheromones associated with the maternal behavior of mammals that provide the epigenetic “driving” force for the development of adaptively evolved behavior. The epigenetic effect of nutrient chemicals is clearly important, because no mammal survives without food. The metabolism of nutrient chemicals to species-specific pheromones is even more important. No mammal survives without the epigenetic effect of pheromones on species-specific differences in behavior, including sex differences in behavior.

Evolution in Four Dimensions

Eva Jablonka

A word search via the following link to the book: Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) provides the following results:

Pheromone: 1 result, which indicates that the pheromones of the ant queen alter the larval development of other queens

Olfactory: 1 result, which indicates the role of olfactory signs in in a complex combination with visual, vocal, and tactile signs.

Odor: 1 result, which indicates that the mother’s influence on her pups was due to her odor.

Scent: 1 result, which indicates that scent is important to courtship involving linking and dancing in flies.

Niche: 25 results, which clearly attest to the importance of niche construction in adaptive evolution.

Random: 43 results, which indicate some confusion about what “random variations”  can be attributed to “random” mutations.

Collectively, these results show how far away we are from a reality-based approach to epigenetic influences. Even those who are among the best at providing today’s students with facts have minimal explanatory power in their works. In the context of adaptive evolution, with vague and disjointed attempts to integrate chemical ecology, the failure to include both the importance of olfactory epigenetic effects and the importance of pheromonal epigenetic effects on  ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction can only continue to inhibit scientific progress. Jablonka exemplifies how much progress can be made without acknowledging the primary epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input. We are left somewhat short of a comprehensive model, which means we are still stuck with a theory for our evolved behavior in an age of neuroscientific progress that should by now have led to inclusion of facts about how epigenetic effects on genetic predisposition alter the development of behavior in species from microbes to man.




James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl

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James Kohl owns, and he has published books and award-winning research journal articles about human pheromones. With colleagues he was the first to show that a mixture of human pheromones increases the flirtatious behaviors of women, and increases their level of attraction to the man wearing the mixture - during a real-life social circumstance lasting 15 minutes.

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What is the vomeronasal organ (VNO)?

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a cone-shaped organ in the nasal cavity, which is believed to be one of the body's receptors of pheromones. More, specifically, the VNO, which is part of the accessory olfactory system in the nose, does not respond to normal scents, but may detect odorless, barely perceptible pheromones.

Other schools of thought believe that it is not the VNO but rather cells in our main olfactory system and their affects on hormones secreted by the hypothalamus that are responsible for the affects of pheromones.

Learn more about the science behind pheromones here.

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