This concluding chapter briefly outlines the historical shoulders on which the book stands, and reexamines several ideas from the introduction so that we can more explicitly define the key characteristics of organisms. It then shows how these ideas illuminate a number of interesting, modern problems in biology. The chapter identifies four core themes that characterize integrative organismal biology. The four core themes are; (i) Organisms are collections of tradeoffs; (ii) Organisms are complex; (iii) Organisms are modular but integrated; and (iv) Organisms are plastic. In organismal biology, reductionism is also partly foiled by emergence. Emergent properties describe phenomena that are not readily decomposable into, or even understandable from, descriptions of their component parts. The chapter finally discusses the basic research questions.
- Integrative organismal biology