Friday, 24 February 2012

Evolutionary developmental biology

Evolutionary developmental biology (evolution of development or informally, evo-devo) is a field of biology that compares the developmental processes of different organisms to determine the ancestral relationship between them, and to discover how developmental processes evolved. It addresses the origin and evolution of embryonic development; how modifications of development and developmental processes lead to the production of novel features, such as the evolution of feathers; the role of developmental plasticity in evolution; how ecology impacts in development and evolutionary change; and the developmental basis of homoplasy and homology.

Although interest in the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny extends back to the nineteenth century, the contemporary field of evo-devo has gained impetus from the discovery of genes regulating embryonic development in model organisms. General hypotheses remain hard to test because organisms differ so much in shape and form.

Nevertheless, it now appears that just as evolution tends to create new genes from parts of old genes (molecular economy), evo-devo demonstrates that evolution alters developmental processes to create new and novel structures from the old gene networks (such as bone structures of the jaw deviating to the ossicles of the middle ear) or will conserve (molecular economy) a similar program in a host of organisms such as eye development genes in molluscs, insects, and vertebrates. Initially the major interest has been in the evidence of homology in the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate body plan and organ development. However more modern approaches include developmental changes associated with speciation.

1 comment:

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