The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Media Roundup

From the Blogosphere: Nature versus Nurture

Patrick Clarkin on developmental plasticity, i.e., the potential to derive many different phenotypes (characteristics) from the same genotype. Includes at least one quote worthy of continuous requiting: “What is inherited is DNA. Everything else is developed.” – James Tanner, “Foetus Into Man” (1990 :119). Human height is a prototypical trait regulated by non-genetic factors- either real, or imagined, as in this excerpt from an older article in the New Yorker:

“(…) in Holland, where everyone has a theory about stature. When I spoke to Hans van Wieringen, the pediatrician, he credited his people’s growth to child care: the Dutch have the world’s best prenatal and postpartum clinics, free for every citizen. Others pointed to the landscape (flatlanders are naturally tall, they said, just as mountain people are naturally short), to the Calvinist religion (Protestants are taller than Catholics because their families have fewer mouths to feed), or to the Dutch love of milk (a study in Bavaria found a direct correlation between height and the number of cows per capita). The Dutch are taller than the Italians, one man suggested, because they go to bed at a reasonable hour.”

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