Paul Kammerer's Experiments on the Midwife Toad (1905-1910)
Turriziani Colonna, Federica
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In the first decade of the twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, conducted research on developmental mechanisms, including a series of breeding experiments on toads (Alytes obstetricans). Kammerer claimed that his results demonstrated that organisms could transmit acquired characteristics to their offspring. To explain how evolution occurred, biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France suggested in his 1809 book that offspring inherited the features their ancestors acquired throughout the lives of those ancestors, a process termed the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments to test the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, which he said described the mechanics of evolution. Additionally, Kammerer's experiments aimed at explaining how development shaped evolutionary processes.