The research on biotic adaptability has long been based on interspecific comparative studies. Georges Cuvier did his research this way, as did Darwin and the school of modern synthesis in the twentieth century. That is to say, the complete evolutionary biology was formerly built on the foundation of interspecific comparative study.
There are two major tasks in the systematic taxonomy for comparing two interspecific similar traits:
1. Comparing the homology and differences between the two traits.
2. Comparing the two traits' adaptability in stressful environments.
The so-called cross comparative study is designed to compare the function-related ecological adaptation among species or within a species, taking into consideration their similar but different functions, in order to discover whether functional otherness may confer the system with benefits of ecological adaptation.
However, since the second half of the twentieth century, some research disciplines that were in the borderland of ecology, including life-history evolution, behavioral ecology, stress biology, phenotypic plasticity, and the evolutionary pathology etc., coincidentally changed their focus from interspecific comparison to intraspecific comparison. Those disciplines formerly evolved separately, and were not even related with each other. The new developmental trend of intraspecific comparison took shape mostly in the past three decades.
Drawing a comparison between the traditional interspecific adaptation study and the novel intraspecific adaptability study, we can find that the former is a long-term biology with its focus on long-period relations in the developmental history of biosphere, while the latter is a short-term biology comparing the short-period relations in individual organism's life history.
Take the example of water logging. In response to flooding, Polygonum persicaria may quickly readjust the root systems and redistribute them to the surface soil layer that is exposed to air, maintaining high growth rates. Their sibling species, Polygonum cespitosum, also shows a similar response, but reacts more slowly, leading to significant biomass decrease. It is clear that the former has a strong ability to adjust development in response to environmental change. It shows that Polygonum persicaria has an adaptive mechanism that enables it to respond to environmental stimulus in the individual life process.
Another example is the tropical earthworms' adaptive aestivation. Aestivation is an important period included within the life cycle of tropical earthworms. Almost all earthworm species display this mechanism as a response to seasonal changes in soil moisture and temperature. During this phase of inactivity, individuals remain at deeper soil layers, fasting and immobile. Through a comparative study on the earthworms' life cycle physiology in relation to the environmental changes, we can find that estivation is a case of intraspecific adaptive strategy. The benefit is that estivation enables individuals to reduce their demands on nutrition and energy, so that the earthworms can escape from unsuitable seasonal conditions. Another study showed that some individuals could increase or reduce the number of segments in different growth phases. Those individuals with increased segments could ingest higher amounts of humus, especially when the organic resources were limited (low C and N contents), as in the case of the acid savannas. This strategy increased nutrient assimilation in their digestive tract.
Blue gills (Lepomis macrochirus) preying on cyclops is another interesting example to demonstrate adaptation. A comparative study of blue gills' predator behavior at different stages in relation to the environmental changes found that when the cyclops population was composed of almost equal numbers of large, medium, and small size groups in low-density, blue gills didn't show particular prey preference and predation was decided by chance, not by size of prey. However, when each group of cyclops were in high-density, blue gills changed the strategy of predation, preying almost exclusively upon the largest cyclops. When the cyclops population was in medium density, blue gills changed their prey preference again, chiefly preying upon the large and medium size cyclops. In short, the rule in their predation is that with prey density increasing, more and more small prey will not be taken. It is obvious that the high density of prey reduces time and energy needed for foraging to a minimum. Using almost equal foraging time and energy to capture a large cyclops surely gains more net profit than to capture a small one. In contrast, a low density of prey increases the time and energy needed for foraging to the maximum, and the net profit of searching for a large cyclops often has no advantage over capturing random prey (no matter what size). Under this condition, random predation can reduce time and energy consumption to the minimum. From the view of adaptation, blue gills' predatory behavior, with different choices at different conditions, always maintains their net profit at the optimum. Blue gills have evolved the best preying strategy upon cyclops by natural selection.
In the borderland of ecology, intraspecific adaptation comparison has found a large amount of evidence that intraspecies variation in traits and functions may occur in response to environmental changes. For example, environmental changes may lead to adjusted seed size, varied number of offspring, advanced or delayed reproductive timing, diversified sizes of individuals, altered shape and behavior, regulated component phases of life history, influenced physiological and metabolic functions, transformed tissue and organ structures, adjusted sex determination, and regulated sex ratio. The discovery and study of the intraspecific adaptive variations demonstrate that within species or within a life history, there is a widespread phenomenon of physiological-ecological adaptive variation.
The Main Areas of Intraspecific Adaptability Comparation
Physiology is one of the oldest branches of life science, defined as a research on an organism's functional mechanisms. Ecology was formally established one hundred years later, defined as a study on the relationship between organisms and their environment. A knowledge association of the two branches just happened over the past several decades.
The intraspecific adaptability comparison and experimental research is an active area at the junction between physiology and ecology. However, the history skeleton of this cross-discipline is a bit confusing and scattered in different disciplines, and so far no relatively established concept system or theoretical paradigm has been formed. At present, this cross-discipline covers a wide range of interdisciplinary studies, but it does not have a unified standard for its concepts, techniques, and measure levels, and even a consensus in naming the subject has not been reached.
Looking at the study content of this cross-discipline, although definite division and qualitative classification have not been made, in practice it can be divided into two basic research levels.
The first level is to study the physiological impact of environmental conditions (e.g., high/low temperature, high/low air pressure, humidity, radiation, diseases, and pests stress etc.) on propagations' physiology, stress resistance, biochemical and physiological regulation, optimal resource allocation and so on. The academic orientation of this level is to study propagations' ecological adaptation relationship from the perspective of physioecology.
The other level is to study how organisms' physiological mechanisms are designed and selected by specific ecological conditions, and to clarify organisms' comprehensive and physiological adaptive mechanisms by which an organism responds to various environmental conditions. The academic orientation of this level is to study organisms' physiological evolutionary relations from the perspective of ecological evolution.
These studies are mainly scattered in the following edge areas of ecology:
¡ªLife-history evolutionary ecology. It compares different species' life-history characteristics, their similarity and dissimilarity, as well as their habitat conditions, and then studies their adaptive variations. Such research gradually extends to intraspecific comparison from the initial interspecies comparison.
¡ªBehavioral ecology. It introduces the concepts and analytic mode developed in studies of life-history bionomic strategy, integrating them into the study of animal's behavior, and expanding it to explore the adaptive value of animal behavior. Similarly, such research is gradually extended to intraspecific comparison from the aboriginal interspecies comparison.
¡ªAdversity and stress biology. It developed from the study of botany. It studies impact of environmental factors in extreme habitat such as high and low temperature, high and low air pressure, humidity, radiation, and chemicals on plants' physiological functions, as well as plants' stress resistance. This study has also been extended to understand the adaptive variation.
¡ªPhysioecology of plasticity. It develops from developmental study, and studies how a given genotype may create a set of adaptive phenotypes in response to environmental changes. This research not only studies biological development at the microbiological level with environmental manipulation in view, but also escalates to include other aspects beyond biological development.
¡ªEvolutionary physiopathology. It is in the field of medicine research, and it independently develops a new direction to explore the adaptive value of disease and the relation between disease and the environmental changes. It studies an organism's damage under stress, compensation, defense, and stress response. This research is different in approach with the adversity and stress biology but equally satisfactory in results.
Adaptational Biology: the Third Synthesis
The development of intraspecific adaptability comparative research has proceeded by stages, and can be roughly divided into two stages:
1) The first stage includes the development of life-history evolutionary ecology and ecology of behavioral strategy.
2) The second stage includes the development of adversity and stress biology, phenotypic plasticity, and evolutionary pathophysiology.
The first stage had a focus on comparative studies of individual external characteristics or changes in behavior. The second stage, however, focused on internal changes in physiological functions, with an emphasis on how the variation of external traits could be reflected on the internal physiological functions. In other words, in the first stage methods of intraspecific adaptability comparison were primarily formed, and in the second stage the comparative methods were associated with microphysiology and became more mature.
In the first stage, interspecific and intraspecific comparison concurrently existed, with the interspecific comparison prevailing. The life-history evolutionary ecology mainly involved interspecific comparison, and the behavioral ecology has some elements of intraspecific comparison. The second stage is dominated by intraspecific comparison, with stress biology having both the comparisons at the same time, and phenotypic plasticity study and evolutionary pathophysiology mostly being intraspecific comparison.
To sum up, the studies of life-history strategy, behavioral strategy, stress resistance, plasticity, anti-injury study (pathology) and so on actually may contain both inter and intraspecific comparison. However, it is important that they have eventually entered into the scope of intraspecies study, an event making sense in history. In sequence, along with the establishment and development of the intraspecies comparative system, the outline of neo-adaptationism will increasingly become clear-cut. Concepts such as bionomic strategy, stress resistance, phenotypic plasticity, adaptive response, optimum adaptation, trade-off, compensation etc. represent the essential ideas of neo-adaptationism.
There are actually two developmental directions in the phylogeny of modern Darwinian biology. One of them arose in the first half of the twentieth century by combining genetic knowledge to form an enlarged and revised analytic evolutionary model that is the well-known modern synthesis. This direction is still the mainstream in modern evolutionary biology.
Another direction is derived from the modern synthesis employing the modern progress in microphysiology, introducing intraspecific adaptability comparison to deepen the explanation for physiology, with a characteristic that it uses new concepts such as bionomic strategy, eco-development, phenotypic plasticity, stress resistance, compensation, niche shift etc. to explain intraspecies variations and life-history variations.
This new direction has not yet established a theoretical position in the modern biology system, but actual evidence on the subject is accumulated very rapidly, undermining some basic concepts and theories of contemporary biology and revealing some serious problems. The development of this direction may bring about intense impact on the field of biology.
Both directions are trying to make a synthesis combining microbiology with macrobiology from the perspective of adaptation, but they have different pertinences that differentiate them in ways to build their theoretical analytic models. Though the modern synthesis introduces the microbiological knowledge, its theory targets macrobiological questions¡ªinterspecies variations. On the contrary, the latter direction aims at explaining microbiological problems¡ªintraspecific variations or life-history variations. The modern synthesis is still based on interspecies comparison, while the new direction has gradually developed a new experimental physiological system¡ªthe comparative system of intraspecific adaptive variation.
The first direction has existed for a long time, while the second direction is still in infancy. Although studies of the second direction have emerged in several marginal areas of ecology, they do not have a unified, explicit definition. According to their characteristic of reductionistic adaptation research at the microphysiology level, here we name it as new physiological study of adaptationism, or neo-adaptationistic biology and adaptational biology in brief.
How can we recognize the historic meaning of adaptational biology as a new direction separated from the modern synthesis?
Let us look at the special historical background of the modern synthesis and find an answer.
Evolutionary theory analytically targets the entire life evolution history on Earth, which has lasted for billions of years. With species as the basic unit, an uninterrupted macrohistory of Earth life (biosphere) is separated into small stage, speciational histories. Then specific traits and functional characteristics of sibling species at different periods and of interspecies at the same period are compared, relating the two sorts of comparing results to their environments. Finally, a basic pattern framework is built. These sorts of studies have had a number of books to interpret their theoretical system structure. Here, we just want to elucidate one key issue among them.
Evolutionary theory was created following a sweeping knowledge association combining natural history with anatomical physiology. The basic knowledge of evolutionary theory was a product of such a great association, the major source of which including comparative anatomy, comparative physiology, and comparative embryology. Paleontology provides a fundamental argument for the evolutionism, but the ancient fossils excavated in archaeological digs are seldom a complete skeleton, and these fragmentary, partial, and only existing samples require comparative studies of physiology and anatomy to get some accurate answers about what animal or plant they are, which position they should have located, and how they function. Darwin's work On the Origin of Species has cited a wealth of actual evidences containing anatomical physiology knowledge. Without the association of pre-Darwinian physiology knowledge with natural history knowledge, especially Cuvier's historic contribution, there would not be such a great transverse (transdisciplinary) theory. Therefore, to a certain extent evolutionary theory is the first cross-discipline synthesis of functional biology and diversity biology.
However, evolutionism has not fully completed the integration because it has an ambiguous concept: how does the natural variation microcosmically occurs? Because of the absence of this knowledge, Darwin had to retain its ambiguity whenever he mentioned the issue of genetic variation. The modern synthesis makes historic sense in that it introduces the gene mutation idea to form an improved natural selection model, with genetics as its basis. Since it had microcosmic concrete evidences to interpret the cause of adaptation, the modern synthesis was able to rejuvenate the once depressed evolutionism to become a theoretical tool capable of explaining the biological generalities.
Therefore, to a certain extent, the modern synthesis is the second cross-discipline integrated theory, associating genetics with evolution. Its mission is still to remedy the theoretical cleft between functional and adaptational biology, which the evolutionism fails to complete.
The modern synthesis movement at one time brought new life to the field, but it thrived for only eighty years at best, as it has an insurmountable obstacle in its theoretical interpretation. The modern synthesis discusses the adaptation problem with gene mutation as the center, while the important role played by the phenotype is almost neglected. This theory in fact implies a latent principle that as long as the mutation of gene was able to be passed to future generations, the predevelopmental primordial germ cells of the offspring may phenotypically express the mutated gene, and the process is automatically mediated by the germ cells' developmental mechanism.
This latent principle is the fatal flaw of the modern synthesis.
If the random genetic change indeed led to a disproportionate elimination of species by natural selection at the rate of species dispersing, please note that this elimination would not directly eliminate the gene, but instead eliminate the carrier of the gene¡ªthe phenotype. Environment does not act on or select the gene, but it acts on or selects the phenotypic carrier of the gene. Environment does not choose the particular phenotypic trait, however it chooses the overall phenotype.
In this way, the in-depth problem emerges. Why is this phenotype being selected rather than that one? How is the physioecological process proceeding when a phenotype is selected in a concrete environment? Thus, the issue of adaptation comes back from gene-centered to phenotype-centered. Therefore, the adaptation issue needs more serious studies; namely, we need to find out how a phenotype withstands selection in different natural environments during its entire individual life process.
Two ideas are essential in order to understand the matter:
First, an individual organism would not be directly eliminated or favored by the environment for having a trait that was different from that of other individuals, since its other traits might confer advantage or reduce the disadvantage brought about by the trait. Any assumption supposing a single trait can be environmentally and directly selected is a mechanical view. For example, a disabled person is not inferior to a nondisabled person in everything that he or she does. A rabbit running more slowly than other ones is not necessarily going to be eaten by a fox; if it has better olfaction and vision, or it is particularly good at cave life, perhaps it may have a better chance of survival.
Second, the environmental selection should not be postulated mechanistically. Environmental factors are of so many diversities and variability's that an organism will never experience a constant and fixed ecological condition during its entire life history. In contrast to the view of environment as a living and changing condition, the modern synthesis is based on the hypothesis that the environment status is fixed and unchanging, a position completely different from the reality. Therefore, relating a fixed phenotype to a fixed environmental condition is an approach that can never reflect the real life process.
For instance, we should not measure traits of frogs living in a pond by simply considering two fixed conditions: is water available, or is it dry? As climate changes may cause the pond to have water abundant seasons, scarce water scarce seasons, long durations of available water, and short periods of drought. Topographic factors may also give the pond some dry land in water abundant seasons and form partial deep pools in scarce water seasons. Rivers around the pond may elicit water volume changes. Plants in the pond may play an important role in frogs' survival by providing niches for avoidance, hiding, food, and even water conservation. The ambient animals may give the frog favorable or harmful impacts and so on. The frog in the pond has to cope with both the combined changes of all these environmental factors and the effects of each factor. Therefore, the frog never has a fixed ecological condition during its life. The concept of ecological niche, which analyzes fixed structure of differential ecological factors, can only be taken as a coarse-graining theoretical method and cannot be used to explain the reductionistic adaptation of life.
When we understand these two points, we will realize that evaluating phenotype's concrete effectiveness under the influence of ecological factors during a life process is an important and specialized task, as well as an inevitable and necessary link in the interpretation of biological theory.
In the face of a continuously developing functional biology and adaptational biology, neither evolutionism nor the modern synthesis has completed a super-synthesis of the knowledge from the two fields of biology. Therefore, the biotic adaptation theory is only a half-done, rough theoretical framework, and the evolutionism has just succeeded in creating an ecological adaptation theory. A physiological adaptation theory remains to be formed. The intraspecific adaptability comparison has a distinct emphasis on the physiological adaptation, and this manifests its historic significance. On the one hand, it inherits the traditional adaptation comparative study of adaptational biology. On the other hand, it involves biotic phenotype and microphysiological process. This is the historic implication of adaptational biology as a new direction separated from the modern synthesis. This is a new synthesis after the Evolutionism and the modern synthesis: a third synthesis of biology.
The new adaptational biology manifests its importance and values increasingly. As the study of stress resistance, phenotypic plasticity, and evolutionary pathology move toward a revelation of physiological adaptation, a new round of integration of multiformitic comparison and microphysiology is becoming the core of the third synthesis of biology. The new adaptational biology is extending its tentacles, becoming more and more independent and unified. After decades of development, a new intraspecific, comparative, experimental, and knowledge-based system of physioecology is in the making. The accumulation and organization of the experimental knowledge in this new area is preparing basic conditions for making a new major theoretical breakthrough in biology. It will bring about great impact on biotic researches and experiments and has significant influence on applied research fields such as brain science, gene biology, medicine and agricultural science.
Deep Structure: A New Experimental Idea
Now, the method of adaptational biology has been shaped.
1) In the first place, adaptational biology breaks away from the modern evolutionary synthesis, whose gene-centered view of evolution it has discarded, while shifting its attention to the physiological phenotype.
2) It introduces an analytic framework characterized by the concept strategy into the intraspecies phenotypic comparative study.
3) In sequence, it goes deep into the microbiology level and introduces the concept of strategy into the microcosmic physiological adaptability explanation.
What is the difference between new adapational biology and traditional functional physiology on their method?
All functional physiological experiments are characterized by their effect continuity and are centered around either the cause-and-effect direct relation or the cause-and-effect transfer relation. In other words, physiological experiments test and record the direct, adjacent, nonjumping effects. When the limited factors, the main object of the study, are investigated for their effect relationship, other factors, such as the background, are assumed to be constant or nearly unchanged. This is the most basic design of functional experiment. Without adopting this design and meeting the requirement, the measurement of the main object's effect may be uncertain due to the instability of background factors.
If the background factors changed, the effect relationship of the main object would be different from that of the previous test. This, in essence, is not the disturbance and uncertainty due to factors outside the experimental system, as in a physical experiment, but a real physiological modulation or reaction. If our vision narrows to the experimental factors themselves, other factors' changes can be seen as disturbance or random influence. However, when we enlarge our vision, it is not so simple. The physiological system is a highly accurate, precise, and orderly organization; its reactions in response to internal and external factors do not happen randomly or uncertainly. Its reactions are purposeful and meaningful, prepared, and strongly or slightly ordered,. From this perspective, the background interference to the main object is merely an organic modulation, unlike the disturbance of a physical test. Essentially, the disturbances are self-physiological modulations.
Therefore, the root of the problem is in the "background modulation." The existence of this modulation causes the route-tracking experiment and analytical model of functional biology to fail.
The basic method of functional biology is to trace the "functional relationship" in vivo¡ªthat an organism is divided into components such as molecules at the biochemical level, organelles at the subcellular level, cells at the tissue level, and organs at the system level. We can identify specific functional relationships among the components, and the holistic property at a given level can be understood as the functional relation combination of the sublevel components. These holistic relations of functional combinations are functional structure.
For instance, taking the human body's anatomy at the organ level, the stomach, kidney, heart, liver, lung, muscle, and blood are identified as structural components at the system level. In traditional physiology, these are assembled into a process of material and energy flow, the "functional operation system." It seems that in this case, the organism is decomposed into functional parts, and the basic processes, which can be tracked by experiments, can be reassembled according to the system order. This is a case completely consistent with the ideal model of reductionism.
However, this functional operational model is only a common pattern and cannot be used to analyze all kinds of the specific background changes of an organism. In a real-life operation, the start-up of a functional relation among the components does not unfold by a common background operational order. Nevertheless, in the theoretical framework of functional biology, you cannot find the interpretation of the relationship between the functional start-up of intercomponents and "background modulation."
Next, let us talk about the understanding of adaptational biology.
As we know, the circulation of blood, unlike the uniform motion and proportional distribution of the functional operation model in the text, displays various motions and variational distributions under different background conditions and physiological demands. For example:
¡¤ When the human body is subject to cold or hot temperature conditions, its skin blood may be much more than normal.
¡¤ In a state of thinking, blood supplied to the brain increases.
¡¤ When people suffer an ailment, their blood may aggregate to the lesions and the resistant organs, and can even make some normal parts become seriously ischemic.
¡¤ When an animal is running at high speed, substantial blood supply may be provided to the locomotive organs, and other organs, such as a disease-resistant organ or digestive organ, may suffer from serious ischemia.
¡¤ On the contrary, when an animal has just finished a meal, the digestion demand may cause its blood to aggregate to the digestive system. At this time, the animal often takes a rest, because its locomotive organ has less blood and is in a state of laziness.
¡¤ Even some mild mental activity can cause a variant supply of blood; for example, a man's face turns red when he experiences being bashful, or the blood flow increases to his muscles when he is angry.
From these examples, we can see that in real operations, the start-up of functional relations does not develop under the common model, but under different conditions; different functional relations display specific start-up combinations. For instance, under what background conditions does the kidney work at greatest efficiency? Under what background conditions does the liver partly shut down? What background conditions may speed up the blood pumping of the heart? In what situations is a specific brain neuron in its most restricted state. Under what background conditions might a specific hormone be secreted?
The basic feature of this method is to understand the organism's functional effect directly from biological background modulation. It is a unique cognitive angle different from functional biology and originating at the edge of ecology and physiology in the second half of the twentieth century. At present, there have developed a quantity of experimental study examples in this research direction after decades of development, and this has created a new experimental idea. Through eight years' work, BECG has made systematical and comprehensive conclusions about this development orientation and has named it "deep structure study."
The forming of "microscopic physiology experiment research of adaptationism," or "adaptational biology," opened up the new experimental and the new theory direction regarding the relationship between the functional research of biology and background modulation. On this basis, BECG introduces a new fundamental concept that is deep structure.
What is deep structure of life?
Many intraspecific adaptability comparison experiments from resistance, plasticity, and pathology research have proved that the functional relations of life are modulated by background physiological changes. BECG's research proved that the background physiological changes follow certain rules, with these two characteristics:
First, the term background physiological modulation microcosmically not only refers to the specific adjustments of an organ or a component, but also represents multiple organs and several components combining together to make a specific adjustment. Macrocosmically, it reflects the organism's holistic ecological demands for physiological components and organs. It shows as the transformation of the body's physiological state and phenotype physio-morph.
Second, the fact that background physiological modulation is linked closely to internal and external factors is distinctly different from the traditional concept of physiological modulation mechanism. The evidence from intraspecific comparative systems shows that background physiological changes are controlled by a dual mechanism including both physiological modulation and ecological modulation. The transformation of the body's physiological state and phenotype physio-morph is conditional.
In this way, a new analysis unit for the adaptation reduction with both physiological and ecological perspectives is formed. BECG named this type of basic unit of modulating physiological background as vitastate in their publishments.
How to understand the characteristics of the structural analysis of this new concept by using the evidence of intraspecific adapatability?
First, here we need to make clear that the organism's internal components are constrained and regulated by multiple vitastates; the "behavior" of the components is designed by and the various holistic backgrounds. In other words, the components are responsible for participating in start-up combinations of different effects and at different times, in the different background interest of the whole. This comprises the essence of the relationships between a specific functional effect and a different background modulation. In addition, the background interest of the whole refers to the actual eco-adaptation of the whole in a changing environment. Therefore, the "design" of the background is not innate, but added from the externals, from the eco-adaptation of the whole.
The adaptation at the physiology level involves two layers: (1) the vitastate's advantage against the environment; and (2) the components being restricted and constrained in vitastates. When a component participates in a physio-ecological background unit and collaborates with other components to form a resistant advantage to the environmental stress, this is the adaptation meaning at the physiology level. In other words, a physiological vitastate, which is composed of a set of specific components, has specific ecological advantage; the limitation and binding suffered by the component participating in the physio-morph comprise the meaning of the component. Therefore, adaptation can be reduced to meaning relationships among specific components and to meaning structures among the components.
The high-level background endows "design" to the lower-level function, which is the meaning of component "behavior." The behaviors contain cellular contraction, secretion, move, split, link, deformation, dormancy, nutrition intake, swallow, and so on. The components (molecules, cells, organs, etc.) behave in the physiological operation (start, stop, strengthen, weaken, converse), playing a part for the whole that is in response to the changes of the vitastate. The meaning of component behavior can be understood along with the pattern.
This kind of relationship between components is different from previous functional structural relationships between components, and it is a new structural relationship¡ªa background (vitastate) organizational relationship among components. Therefore, through the reduction of meaning, adaptation is thus transformed into a new structure: the meaning structure. The concept of meaning structure can be formed, the structure property of the meaning becomes an important fact, and the reductional analysis of meaning structure comes to have a real empirical basis.
Speaking from the reductional structure, at each level, a component's behavior is woven by the background system (vitastate) of the whole. Each molecule has multiple specific vitastate backgrounds. These background systems are the chief behind-the-scene controllers of life functional processes. The background system is the logic basis of the life functional modulation mechanism. The logic structure of the background system produces the instability of functional effective relationships. Or we can say that there are specific structures in the vitastate background of components in the broad sense of life modulation. The background system is not only cross-layer, but also structural. These structures can be named as meaning structure or meaning system.
To differentiate the functional structure from meaning structure, we figuratively call the former shallow structure of life and the latter deep structure of life. And vitastate is the basic unit of the deep structure. Shallow structure reflects the effect relationship between the various components of life; deep structure reflects the expression relationship between the components and all kinds of background environments of life; this expression relationship is the meaning of components in living organisms. The research objectives of adaptational biology and functional biology are different. Adaptational biology is the science of studying the deep-structure relationship of life, and vitastate is its core concept.
Why do we say the essence of adaptability research is deep-structure research?
Evolutionarily speaking, all organisms' eco-adaptation is established in the history of biosphere evolution. The highest level adds "background design" to the next sublevel until the lowest level; during that process components differentiate under the eco-adaptation of the upper level and acquire specific behavior and meaning. The being's design history is a history of natural selection.
So we can deem that all studies about adaptation are essentially research on the deep structure, the issues of "ultimate cause" named by Mayr. In fact, the meaning of life primarily is a traditional issue of diversity biology, and it can be traced back to the early diversity comparison of traits or organs. This research arises from the human instinct to ask questions about nature. When a person sees a plant that is similar to another plant in leaves, shape, and branches, but not flower color, he may probably ask why it is so, and that is the beginning of comparative study. Afterward, the comparison develops further and further. Mayr sums up the life-meaning research as a quest for the ultimate cause of life structure and function, and puts it parallel with the investigation of the proximate cause of life structure and function.
But the systematics have discovered preliminary meaning relations by comparing species' phenotypic characters, and evolutionary biology discovered the meaning system by comparing evolutionary relationships between species.
However, they have not touched on the structure of meaning at the physiological level. So systematics can be seen as the early stage of meaning studies, and evolutionary biology can be seen as the medium stage. Since substantive evidence of life background vitastate has been found in intraspecific comparative research, meaning study is moving toward a deeper understanding, making a breakthrough in explaining adaptation physiologically. Then adaptational biology was born. And the deep-structure concept provides a theoretical tool for the interpretation of the meaning relationship.
In short, diversity research is essentially different from functional research. Its history shows that during its long developmental course, it has been looking for a hypothetical basic ideal that is long-lasting and remains unchanged. It believes that behind species' diversity is a deep-seated systemic order. This order goes beyond individual animals, at the same time infiltrating the internals of individuals and running through all the internal and external levels of individuals. It is not illusory and immaterial, and its true features can be revealed by comparison and classification. All the scholars engaged in classification may have this belief to some degree. This ideal is very different from the tradition of functional biology; although biology has undergone changes, the ideal remains the same and always in its independent line.