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Extra resources for Formand Functionin Developmental Evolution

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Evo Devo does indeed represent a reorientation of evolutionary biology. The main difference is that phenotypes are no longer seen merely as the passive by-products of evolutionary processes that are mainly driven by internal genetic changes and external evolutionary forces, such as natural selection or genetic drift, but rather as the locus of integration of a whole range of mechanisms, from molecular and developmental to physiological and environmental. Consequently, the patterns and processes of phenotypic change result from a combination of all these diverse causal mechanisms from a variety of organizational (from genes to the environment) and temporal (developmental, life history, and evolution) scales.

Comparative approaches are also among the oldest within biology and have traditionally emphasized form on all levels of analysis – from morphology and anatomy to histology and embryology, and, today, also genomics and structural biology. These approaches continue to raise important questions and methodological challenges and also provide the foundation for all further investigations into biological processes or functions. In the context of Evo Devo, comparative perspectives apply to phenotypes (adult and embryological) as well as to gene expression patterns and their regulation.

To sum up, the theoretical and computational program within Evo Devo is about to get a great boost from the increasing success of experimental approaches. Finally, within the theoretical program, the question of form and function is also addressed most clearly. For instance, Ron Amundson’s analysis of the different epistemological frameworks of developmental and evolutionary biology clarifies the issue from a conceptual point of view and also suggests ways for a potential conceptual integration.

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