Saturday, July 17, 2010

Phenotypic Plasticity

Wikipedia says that "phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to change its phenotype in response to changes in the environment. It is broadly applied to include changes that occur during the adult life of an organism, such as behavior.

Organisms may differ in the degree of phenotypic plasticity they display when exposed to the same environmental change. Hence, phenotypic plasticity can evolve and be adaptive if fitness is increased by changing phenotype."

For my entire life, especially the adult portion in which I'm now living, I've been a carnivore. I thought Cheeseburgers were one of the three food groups. If I went to a restaurant with a buffet, I would usually pick several meat choices and not have any vegetables on my plate during the entire meal.

After I married Carmel in 2001, she would often point out to me that there was nothing green on my plate at dinner. I always told her that if I saw something green on my meal, I'd cut it off and hope it hadn't spread to the inside of the meat.

To be fair to myself, I was trained this way as a child. It's not that my mother didn't know how to cook vegetables, but my father didn't like them. So my mother, like most wives of her generation, cooked what he liked. And that wasn't vegetables.

But my dad is a diabetic, has COPD, has had quintuple bypass surgery, and now has a new pacemaker. And he's only 19 years older than me. 19 years!

In 2008, I began to see my future as I looked at him. I figured that if I didn't change my ways, in only 19 years, I would have more than just his hairline, I'd have his health problems. So I became a vegetarian. And a long-distance cyclist. Phenotypic plasticity.

Besides giving up meat, I gave up alcohol. Alcohol, unlike most carbohydrates, has 7 calories per gram and metabolizes differently. Despite the favorable press a drink a day has received these last few year, I figure it's poison. Ditto for fast food.

When the subject comes up with any of my beer swilling, meat eating pals, they always say the same thing, "Everybody has to die of something!". And I always respond the same way, "It's not what I'll die of that bothers me, it's how I'll live until then that is my concern."

These two pictures were taken two years apart. Phenotypic plasticity.

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