A Philosophical View of Reptiles as Animal Models: The Role of Context and the Need for Research (pp. 1-12)
Authors: (Glenn M. Sanford, Sam Houston State University, TX, USA)
Abstract: The choice of a problem to research and the species that will be studied are often distinct. Time and again, the decision to research a particular problem creates an opportunity to reflect on the best species upon which to study the problem (i.e., the choice of a model organism). Choosing a model organism involves far more than identifying an organism with the appropriate physiological or anatomical features. It is a philosophical choice that is driven by one’s context including available resources, institutional demands, prevailing knowledge and/or attitudes, and a multitude of other factors both implicit and explicit. Two truisms in this process are that no one studies organisms that have not been discovered, and the more we know about an organism, the easier it is to determine whether it is an appropriate model. Yet, the ease with which we can make a choice is not always connected to the rightness of the choice — some good choices are lucky, while others are wise. Despite the fact that reptiles possess varied (and often unique) characteristics, they remain underutilized as model systems because they are understudied relative to “A-list” model organisms. This lack of basic research has the unfortunate side effect of creating additional barriers to the use of reptiles as model organisms. The growing body of basic research on reptiles has created novel opportunities in the applied sciences, which in turn are raising awareness about the value of this oft-misunderstood class.