Journal article

A Tricky Trait: Applying the Fruits of the "Function Debate" in the Philosophy of Biology to the "Venom Debate" in the Science of Toxinology

Timothy NW Jackson, Bryan G Fry

TOXINS | MDPI AG | Published : 2016


The "function debate" in the philosophy of biology and the "venom debate" in the science of toxinology are conceptually related. Venom systems are complex multifunctional traits that have evolved independently numerous times throughout the animal kingdom. No single concept of function, amongst those popularly defended, appears adequate to describe these systems in all their evolutionary contexts and extant variations. As such, a pluralistic view of function, previously defended by some philosophers of biology, is most appropriate. Venom systems, like many other functional traits, exist in nature as points on a continuum and the boundaries between "venomous" and "non-venomous" species may not..

View full abstract


Funding Acknowledgements

Timothy N. W. Jackson was the recipient of a PhD scholarship from the University of Queensland while Bryan G. Fry was funded by the Australian Research Council. The authors thank Nicholas Casewell and Ivan Koludarov for profitable discussions relating to the content of the present paper.