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Extended Phenotype

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Key Concept - The body of an organism includes all things necessary for its reproduction such as rocks, webs or holes; e.g. a beaver pond is part of the beaver's body because without it the beaver's genes would likely not survive.  The organism does not "know" to use the thing since the thing is just part of its body.

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Quote  "The house of a caddis is strictly not a part of its cellular body, but it does fit snugly round the body.  If the body is regarded as a gene vehicle, or survival machine, it is easy to see the stone house as a kind of extra protective wall, in a functional sense the outer part of the vehicle.  It just happens to be made of stone rather than chitin.  Now consider a spider sitting at the centre of her web.  If she is regarded as a gene vehicle, her web is not a part of that vehicle in quite the same obvious sense as a caddis house, since when she turns round the web does not turn with her.  But the distinction is clearly a frivolous one.  In a very real sense her web is a temporary functional extension of her body, a huge extension of the effective catchment area of her predatory organs."  "The Extended Phenotype:  The Long Reach of the Gene,"  Richard Dawkins, p. 198.

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Page updated 8/5/01