March 1, 2010. 7 pages. Published on the American Genetic Association website. Copyright © 2010 William Stansfield.
French naturalist J.B. Lamarck is most commonly known for popularizing the theory that some traits acquired during the life of an organism can be inherited in his 1809 book. German biologist A. Weismann presented evidence in his 1891 book that acquired traits were not heritable in sexually reproducing animals. But so little was known about bacteria that they were considered to be the last stronghold of Lamarckism. The “fluctuation test” of S. Luria and M. Delbrück in 1943 seemed to confirm that Lamarckism in bacteria was indeed dead. This review, however, proposes that today bacteria may be viewed as the source from which much of our present knowledge of epigenetics, evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and the induction or inheritance of acquired characters has grown.