Last week, when this series started… I had promised to reproduce excerpts from the life of the renowned scientist and botanist Prof. Kailas Nath Kaul. Continuing the series, here I share at gcaffe as to how we are capable of maintaining ourselves… as you get to know Prof. Kaul better with some of his research in abridged versions, in plain non-technical texts for easy understanding.
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Character Of All Life
The ability to adapt to a changing environment is an essential characteristic of living organisms and of social systems. Higher organisms are usually capable of three kind of adaptations, which comes into play successively during prolonged environment changes.
The first type is swiftly reversible. A person who goes from sea level to a higher altitude, for example, may begin to pant and his heart may race. These changes are swiftly reversible; descending the same day will make them disappear immediately.
If the environmental change persists, the organism will go through a further process of adaptation. Complex physiological changes take place among the more stable components of the system to absorb the environmental impact and restore flexibility. Thus the person at high altitude will be able to breathe normally again after a certain period of time and to use his panting mechanism for adjusting to other emergencies that might otherwise be lethal. This form of adaptation is known as somatic change. Then, the body acclimatizes to this kind of habit-forming while addiction is the special case of this process. Although the system is more flexible after the somatic change than it was before (when it was under stress), it is still less flexible than it was before the original stress occurred. Somatic change, then, thus internalizes stress, and the accumulation of such internalised stress may, eventually, lead to illness.
The third kind of adaptation available to living organisms is the adaptation of the species in the process of evolution. The changes brought about by mutation, also known as Genotypic changes (changes in the genetic make up), are totally different from somatic changes. Through Genotypic change, species adapt to the environment by shifting the range of some of its variables and notably of those which result in the most economical changes. For example, when the climate gets colder, an animal will stay warm. Genotypic change provides more flexibility than somatic change and since every cell contains a copy of the new genetic information, it will behave in the changed manner without needing any messages from surrounding tissues and organs. Thus more circuits of the system will remain open and the overall flexibility is increased. On the other hand, Genotypic change is irreversible within the lifetime of an individual.
Therefore, it may be understood that the three modes of adaptation are characterized by increasing flexibility and decreasing reversibility. In other words … the more fluctuations, the greater the stability of the organism.