In the recent literature on explanation in biology, increasing attention is being paid to the connection between design explanation and mechanistic explanation, viz. the role of design principles and heuristics for mechanism discovery and mechanistic explanation. In this paper we extend the connection between design explanation and mechanism discovery by prizing apart two different types of design explanation and by elaborating novel heuristics that one specific type offers for mechanism discovery across species. We illustrate our claims in terms of two lines of biological research on the biological advantages of organismal traits, one on the eye-size of giant squid, the other on foraging habits of specific bat species. We argue that this research illustrates useful heuristics for mechanism discovery across species, viz. reasoning strategies to infer likely mechanisms for a certain biological role based on assessments of the environmental conditions in which the role is performed efficiently and less or in-efficiently. We bring out the novel features of our analysis in terms of a comparison with mechanistic approaches to mechanism discovery, amongst which graph-theoretical ones, and by comparing the different types of design explanation and the discovery heuristics they support.
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DOI 10.1007/s10838-017-9383-y
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