"Organismal' vs. "mechanistic' biology

K. C. Nishikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Gerhard Roth's book, Visual Behavior in Salamanders, illustrates the advantages that an organismal perspective brings to physiological studies in general, and to sensory neurophysiology in particular. While many "mechanistic' biologists hope optimistically that the "system' they study will provide a general "model' for vertebrates as a whole, an organismal perspective emphasizes the unique qualities of each species, within its particular system of developmental and functional constraints. By comparing many species in the context of their phylogenetic relationships, it is possible to make well supported statements about the distribution of physiological characteristics among groups of vertebrates. While the cost of this approach is relatively high in terms of the time and effort necessary to gather data on a number of different species, an understanding of the ontogenetic and physiological basis for evolutionary transformation is absolutely necessary for an understanding of functional diversity. -Author

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-479
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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