ISSN 10623604, Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, 2014, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 105–116. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2014.
Original Russian Text © V.M. Zakharov, I.E. Trofimov, 2014, published in Ontogenez, 2014, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 138–150.
Homeostasis as the ability to maintain structural–
functional parameters of the system at the required level
is a basic characteristic for providing the stability of any
biological system (from biosphere and separate ecosys
tems to communities, populations, and individuals).
Certain homeostatic mechanisms at a lower level
(molecular, cellular) are finally aimed to provide the
With the obvious importance of maintaining the sta
bility of biosphere and certain ecosystems, the study of
stability and homeostatic mechanisms at this level is
associated with considerable differences. An increase in
anthropogenic effect determines the need for maintain
ing the environmentforming function of biosphere,
bearing and assimilation capacity of the environment. It
was found that many ecosystems can in fact continue
functioning at quite high anthropogenic load. But it is
not usually considered that the state of living beings can
be extremely unfavorable during carrying out its role in
the ecosystem; this can finally question the very possi
bility of continuous successful ecosystem functioning.
The principal question about criteria for evaluation of
assimilation capacity and maximum load on biological
systems also remains open.
Estimation of the mechanisms for maintaining of
the community structure and its dynamics upon expo
sure to natural and anthropogenic factors is the main
task for the study at the next level. The stability at the
community level can be provided not only due to the
change in a specific composition but also due to popu
lation parameters. In addition, the state of individuals
can be completely unfavorable (due to genetic and envi
ronmental stress) in externally favorable habitat and
large population. Biodiversity quite often remains at the
same level or even increases in polluted regions.
Thus, estimation of the possibility of homeostasis
characteristic at an individual level, at the level of indi
vidual development is both of independent interest and
is important for understanding the mechanisms of bio
logical systems at other levels (including population,
community, and ecosystem).
IDEAS ABOUT HOMEOSTASIS
Homeostasis, or development stability (homeosta
sis), is one of the most common characteristics of the
developing organism. It was demonstrated that high
stability of development is maintained on the basis of
genetic coadaptation at optimal conditions of devel
opment (Zakharov, 1987;
…, 1997; Moller and Swaddle, 1997).
For the developmental stability characteristic, the
problem reduces to the estimation of normality and
perfection of the development processes; violations in
the development and ontogenetic noise were suggested
to be the main indicators of them. If violations in the
development proper (phenodeviations that are consid
erable changes in morphology) are extremely rarely
found, ontogenetic noise is an operational criterion for
Homeostatic Mechanisms of Biological Systems:
V. M. Zakharov and I. E. Trofimov
Koltzov Institute of Developmental Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Vavilova 26, Moscow, 119334 Russia
Received December 11, 2013; in final form, January 15, 2014
—Homeostasis as an ability to maintain structural–functional parameters of the system at the
required level is a basic characteristic for providing the stability of any biological system (from biosphere and
separate ecosystems to communities, populations, and individuals). The study of homeostatic mechanisms
that provide the stability of biological systems is the main task for solving many theoretical and practical ques
tions. The search for criteria of homeostasis estimation and study of homeostatic mechanism ratio at different
levels are principally important in this direction. Estimation of the role of homeostatic mechanisms of the
organism and population for providing the stability of biological systems of different levels when using the
approach based on estimation of the population state from ontogenetic positions (population developmental
biology) seems promising.
: developmental homeostasis, development stability, environmental health, biodiversity, climate
change, anthropogenic influence, population developmental biology