A hypothetical mechanism for heredity proposed by Charles Darwin in which it holds that gemmules are shed by the body cells and carried in the bloodstream to the gonads where they accumulate within the reproductive cell (e.g. egg cell) prior to fertilization. In development, the fertilized egg cell containing the accumulated gemmules would give rise to cells of offspring similar to that of its parent. It further assumes that not all gemmules are active during development. They may become dormant until such time an ‘awakening’ occurs, such as in the case of atavism and limb regeneration.
Pangenesis is Charles Darwin’s attempt to explain atavisms, blending inheritance, Lamarckian use and disuse, and limb regeneration. However, at this time this hypothesis is no longer believed as it has long been disproved.
Word origin: from the Greek words pan (a prefix meaning “whole”, “encompassing”) and genesis (birth) or genos (origin).
Related forms: pangenetic (adjective), pangenetically (adverb).
See also: heredity