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Type: Journal article
Title: ‘Extreme’ organisms and the problem of generalization: interpreting the Krogh principle
Author: Green, S.
Dietrich, M.
Leonelli, S.
Ankeny, R.
Citation: History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 2018; 40(4):65-1-65-22
Publisher: Springer
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 0391-9714
Statement of
Sara Green, Michael R. Dietrich, Sabina Leonelli, Rachel A. Ankeny
Abstract: Many biologists appeal to the so-called Krogh principle when justifying their choice of experimental organisms. The principle states that "for a large number of problems there will be some animal of choice, or a few such animals, on which it can be most conveniently studied". Despite its popularity, the principle is often critiqued for implying unwarranted generalizations from optimal models. We argue that the Krogh principle should be interpreted in relation to the historical and scientific contexts in which it has been developed and used. We interpret the Krogh Principle as a heuristic, i.e., as a recommendation to approach biological problems through organisms where a specific trait or physiological mechanism is expected to be most distinctively displayed or most experimentally accessible. We designate these organisms "Krogh organisms". We clarify the differences between uses of model organisms and non-standard Krogh organisms. Among these is the use of Krogh organisms as "negative models" in biomedical research, where organisms are chosen for their dissimilarity to human physiology. Importantly, the representational scope of Krogh organisms and the generalizability of their characteristics are not fixed or assumed but explored through experimental studies. Research on Krogh organisms is steeped in the comparative method characteristic of zoology and comparative physiology, in which studies of biological variation produce insights into general physiological constraints. Accordingly, we conclude that the Krogh principle exemplifies the advantages of studying biological variation as a strategy to produce generalizable insights.
Keywords: Adaptation; August Krogh principle; Comparative physiology; Experimental organisms; Generalization; Model organisms
Rights: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creat iveco mmons .org/licen ses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
RMID: 0030102323
DOI: 10.1007/s40656-018-0231-0
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