Organisms can be separated into components according to functional experimental methods. For example, they can be viewed as various molecules at biochemistry level, organelles at subcellular level, cells at organ level, or organs at system level. Then, among the components, various relations of specific functional processes can be identified. Thus the living system at certain level can be taken as the combination of the functional relations among members of the sub-level. This systemic relation of functional components is called functional structure.
However, this functional structure of systemic operation is just a common pattern. In real operations of living organisms, functional relations do not start in accordance with the common pattern. Instead, different functional relations present specific startup modes under varied conditions. For example, when does a kidney work at the highest efficiency? At what time is nerve cells' activity restricted? In what conditions does a particular hormone secrete? Large numbers of studies have proved that functions of organisms are essentially physio-morphs of the common pattern.
Comparison of blood flow and distribution may serve as a typical example to illustrate this. Blood circulation is not in accordance with the conventional functional mode of uniform motion and normal distribution, showing a variety of flow and distribution patterns under different environmental conditions to meet different physiological needs.
¡ªIn cold or high-temperature environments, more than normal blood may distribute on skin surface;
¡ªWhen people are thinking, their brain blood supply increases;
¡ªWhen a body is in ailment, its blood may converge to the lesion and the disease-resistant organ, and this may lead to a serious ischemia in some normal parts of the body;
¡ªWhen animals are running at high speed, blood may flow substantially to the motor organs, but other organs such as disease resistance or digestive organs may suffer a serious ischemia;
¡ªOn the contrary, when animals have just finished a food intake, often due to a need to digest the food, blood may converge to the digestive system. At this time the animals usually take a rest because their motor organs have less blood and are in a state of sluggishness.
¡ªEven some mild mental activities can also lead to a physio-morph of blood supply. For example, blood may flush up to a man's face with shyness, or to his muscles with anger.
Neo-adaptationism's intraspecific adaptation comparison has abundant experimental evidence which has demonstrated that a being's functional operation in essence is a physio-morph of its common pattern. Stress resistance study, plasticity research, and anti-injury study provide evidence that operation regulation of the variant morph has two characteristics:
First, a physio-morph's operation microcosmically not only involves a specific adjustment of a given organ and component, but also involves specific adjustment made by multiple sub-organs and components associating together. Macrocosmically, the physio-morph's operation is a reflection of a systemic ecological demand displaying on physiological components and organs. This is the contribution of intraspecific comparative study to the reductionistic theory of biology.
Second, a physio-morph's operation has a close link with internal and external environmental factors, and this is divergent from the traditional view of physiological modulation mechanism in functional biology. The experimental evidence of the intraspecific comparative system showed that a physio-morph's operation is subject to both physiological and ecological modulations.
The variant morph of the common functional structure has a foundation that its components must be regulated and restricted by the whole system, and the behavior of the components may be designed or stipulated to meet the needs of the whole system. In other words, components must take responsibilities to start at different times and with varied efficiency in the interest of the system. And the so-called interest of the system is the specific ecological adaptability of the system in a changing environment. Therefore, being designed behavior is not a natural part of components themselves, but something added by external environment, or by the ecological adaptability of the system. The phrase components' behavior means that high level adds design to its subordinate level. The ecological adaptabilities of all living things were built during the course when the biosphere systematically evolved. Therefore, adding design to the subordinate level from the hierarchy at the top of the biosphere to the lower level, and from the lower level to the molecule of the lowest level, is a process when components differentiate level by level from the top holistic ecological adaptability and acquire their specific meaning of behavior. Thus, this history of being designed is the history of natural selection.
Therefore, with the meaning of concrete reductionistic structures in view, the behaviors of components at all levels are weaved by the design mechanics of the system. These design mechanics are the major modulator of biotic functional processes and the logic basis for regulating and controlling mechanisms of all living things. The variant morphs' operation is generated due to a logic structure of the design mechanics. In other words, in a broad sense of a being's regulation, there is a specific structural relation among being designed characteristics of components. Hence, design mechanics is not only cross-levels, but of structure as well. This structural relation is called meaning system. By comparison, biotic functional structure could be found through functional experiment, but the connotation meaning structure might not be discovered by simple functional experiment. To reveal the connotation meaning structure, we need to depend on comparative experimental methods of new adaptational biology.
Connotation Meaning Structure advocates a new concept to study the cross-level meaning relations, and unifies the internal physiological process with the external ecological diversity by analyzing and integrating the meaning relationship. This method can be employed in any interconnected areas between different levels in biological research. As a general analogy in physiology and ecology, any level could be distinguished as physiological processes at the low level and effects of ecological diversity at the upper level. In the case of cells, the internal biochemical process is an issue on generalized physiological process, but relations between cell and its peripheral environment, or among cells within the internal environment, are issues within the category of broad ecological diversity.
According to the concept of connotation meaning structure, the cross-level researches on cells might unify biochemical processes with the internal ecological relations by analyzing and integrating the connotation meaning structures. This approach suggests a theoretical model called deep-structure theory, which could be defined as: an analysis of cross-level connotation meaning structure relations among components of all levels, and a study of the connotation meaning structure's forming and evolutionary principle.
Therefore, functional structure and connotation meaning structure are two different biological concepts; we term the latter as deep-structure of life, which is the collective target and ultimate point of each branch of adaptational biology's researching and developing. All experiments and theories about intraspecific variation, stress strategy, phenotypic physio-morph, adaptive flexibility, ecological development, dynamic plasticity, evolutionary pathology, and so on will concentrate on the terminal concept of deep-structure.Here is the starting point of physiological Darwinian theory.