Paul Kammerer's Experiments on Sea-squirts in the Early Twentieth Century
AuthorTurriziani Colonna, Federica
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In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, experimented on sea-squirts (Ciona intestinalis). Kammerer claimed that results from his experiments demonstrated that organisms could transmit characteristics that they had acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments on sea-squirts and other organisms at a time when Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution lacked evidence to explain how offspring inherited traits from their parents. In 1809, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France theorized that living beings can inherit the features their parents or ancestors acquired during those ancestor's lifetime, a theory called the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Kammerer attempted to provide evidence for the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, which constituted, he argued, the mechanics of evolution. Kammerer claimed that his results could explain evolutionary processes through developmental phenomena.