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Biology Articles » Evolutionary Biology » An Effort to Explain the Process of Body Formation » Chapter 3

Chapter 3
- An Effort to Explain the Process of Body Formation

Free cells are individuals, which obey certain conditions, they reproduce themselves, they are reacting directly upon the environmental pressure, they bring nourishment, the are selfish and they have an identity of their own etc.

The same conditions were fulfilled also be free bodies and one could probably think of a suggestion of a further higher level, even though it appears that the “technical” opportunities to function as an independent individual are restricted. In this respect I think of insect societies. Their identity as individuals seems to have restricted opportunities to develop and function.

Some elementary characteristics are accordingly returning on all three levels, in spite of the otherwise huge differences To designate cells individuals maybe all does not agree to do, even less to designate insect societies individuals. As a common definition for these both and for bodies I therefore choose the expression “biological individuals”.

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Ardrey is dealing with the territory behaviour of the slime molds and is classifying it as a society with an external enmity, founded upon a defense of a society territory. But the definition concerns only the development until the signal. The description of the continuation in phase two is namely showing a phenomenon of a completely different kind, according to Ardrey “a society built up by individuals, who are behaving a one sole organism”. It is even moving towards heat or light and is emitting spores.

A body-like society is something completely else than a territory. I on my part am interpreting the course of events in phase two as the forming of a body of the simplest kind. The territory of the slime mold is differing from other examples of territories in the book by Ardrey, in that the territory is treated as a necessary preliminary stage in the body forming, which will follow. It is not only a gradual difference between phase one and phase two at the slime molds, it is a specific difference. The slug is something completely different than the territory of phase one, just as the insect society is something completely than a collection of unorganized insects.

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The starting point for the following scenarios is the situation that can be assumed to have existed with the slime molds in the beginning of their development a billion years ago, short before the next phase in their development, phase two. Let us assume that they had developed so far that they were living in populations, having territory boarders approximately in the way Ardrey has described with respect to phase one.

The situation for one cell in the population is about similar with that of free cells, which are living without belonging to a territory population and may very simplified be described, according to the following figure.


The picture is referring to the forces that are affecting the external existence of the cell, i.e. in its physical property as a biological individual. The arrows are numbered 1 to 4 and indicate the direction of their influence. I have here left out of account the effects of mutations. The activities of the cell are driven by the reproduction and the supporting of life which is to be regarded as the motor of the system It is reacting upon changes in the environmental pressure (1), which implies changes in the gene set (2) and hence affecting the cell (3). The cell may in exceptional cases affect the environment (4). The environmental pressure is a modifying element in the system. The genes are passive instruments and are lacking a direct contact with the environmental pressure.

Regarding phase one there are some issues that deserves mentioning.

The behaviour of the cell is similar to that of other free cells. The life within a population of a territory also implies that the cell has some properties, which are related to the common population. For example: Everyone is emitting a gas that is repelling other groups until a certain distance, while simultaneously attracting the clan of its own. As a hypothesis I propose the following scenario: A catastrophe situation is presumed to arise for the first time, caused for example bye the gas barriers, which have become too strong to be broken. The highest desire of the cell is to be moved to better hunting grounds, but it is being stopped by these gas barriers. The cell is forced towards a collapse and is unable to react upon the environmental pressure. It seems to be an insoluble situation; its selfish opportunities to survival and reproduction are being eliminated. The situation thus arisen can be illustraded using the following figure:


When the catastrophe has achieved certain intensity, a momentary reaction will take place, which is setting the cells into an altruistic state. The visible result is that all the cells are gathering in a lump and commonly begin to form the slug.

The cells are thus momentarily being transferred from selfishness into altruism, while simultaneously a kind of superior function seems to arise that enables the cells to cooperate in order to attain the goal they are individually unable to achieve.

The state after the transformation to phase two can be illustrated accordingly:


The figure is showing that now the slug is the biological individual and that is affected by the environmental pressure. The individual cells are apparently no more selfish but altruistic and governed by the superior function and hence, are in phase two no more biological individuals. Through the interaction of the superior function with the environmental pressure it has finally arisen a new kind of body, but very incomplete.

A catastrophe situation of some kind seems according to the hypothesis of mine to be a prerequisite for phase two to be able to arise.

One would judge the description by Ardrey that at first a cell overcomes the inner resistance against a change and in this connection is launching the momentary process in which the cells become altruistic and which leads to the forming of a body on a higher level than the cells. This body is ruled by a superior function that takes over the responsibility for the reproduction of the cells.

Body forming does not differ from other phenomena within biology. In that process the selfishness of the individuals are removed and she is able to act against her sound, selfish instincts. It is a question of a transfer between two completely different states, two different levels of life.

Thanks to the superior function the cells are being liberated from their selfishness and from the struggle for their personal existence, which ought to mean a relief, and that relief seems to release forces that have been bound by the struggle for existence. That struggle has now been taken over by the superior function. That, as I have expressed as “relief”, is a part of the necessary “change of attitude” of the cells, which I presumed in the introduction.

The situation can be compared to that of Bettelheim’s prisoners. Their unbearable situation brought finally about a spontaneous, though occasional change of attitude with them. An occasional superior function, “the mass” of Bettelheim’s prisoners, relieved from the prisoners their personal worries and they became a strong experience of euphoria, of relief. They were hereafter no more bothering for their own fate, but had the powers to help others. A reaction with that meaning may have occurred on the simpler cell level.

“The mass” is a word that can give wrong associations. “The superior function” is better; it shows that it is a question of an individual of higher order that is functioning thanks to the altruism of the individual cells.

In the common sense the slug is no body. It has been formed by free cells, which thereafter are no more being divided. [8] It does not have the opportunities of a normal body, an almost unrestricted ability to chemical control, DNA control, as the biologists are describing it, through which a coherent system of tissues and functions gradually are being formed. The superior function can in the case of the slime molds hardly affect anything else than the behaviour, and that circumstance has defined narrow borders for the development opportunities of the slug. The weak development of its identity thus depends on the fact that effective means for management of the functions of the cells thus are impossible and that the cell division of cells has ceased.

The development of the slug takes place through successive changes in the behaviour of the cells in connection with the interaction of the superior function with the environmental pressure. The more appropriate types of behaviour have a higher survival value for the slug and therefore the behaviour of the cells are being changed with time, and hence the form of the slug and its behaviour. On can imagine that in the beginning there was a formless cell lump, which called by a signal broke the gas barriers of its neighbours.

A consequence of that development is that all cells must master all necessary types of behaviour; they must be able of functioning at all the places within the slug.

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