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Traditional hypotheses on the phylogenetic relationships of the major animal groups have been deeply shaken by modern developments in molecular phylogenetics, developmental genetics, cladistics and palaeontology. At the same time, the emerging discipline of evolutionary developmental biology, or evodevo, has been opening new vistas into the origin and the evolvability of major traits of animal architecture and life cycle. All these developments call for a revised interpretation of the pathways along which animal structure and development has been evolving since the origin of the Metazoa.
This book aims to move a step towards such a target, by critically illustrating the current awareness in animal phylogeny and by using the new emerging scenario of phylogenetic relationships as reference for a fresh rethinking about the evolution of the main feature of animal architecture and life cycles.
The author integrates evidence from traditional disciplines like palaeontology and comparative anatomy with the perspectives suggested by comparative developmental genetics and phylogenetic analyses based on molecular and genomic approaches. Central to the argument is an evo-devo perspective on animal evolution, aimed to open new vistas into the origin of animal organization and life cycles, complementary to the traditional perspectives framed in terms of either pattern (cladistics; comparative anatomy and embryology), mechanisms (developmental biology) or adaptation (evolutionary biology). The author advocates the need to approach the study of animal evolution with a critical attitude towards many key concepts of comparative morphology and developmental biology, e.g., segment, body axis, developmental stage. Special attention is paid to the evolution of life cycles and larval forms.
Preface; 1. Reading the history of life; 2. Animal phylogenetics; 3. Metazoans enter the stage; 4. Deep branches of the metazoan tree; 5. The entangled phylogeny of the Bilateria; 6. A gallery of major bilaterian clades; 7. The life cycle and its evolution; 8. The evolution of animal body architecture; 9. The overall picture; References; Index
The book does not merely list facts about animal evolution. It is a celebration of the intellectual puzzles posed by the wonderful diversity of animals, an effective spur for further exploration and debate of the mysterious but unmistakable signs of unity hidden beneath this diversity. No serious student of animal evolution can afford to miss this book. Minelli gives it a distinctive flavour eminently suited to repeated sampling, with or without a glass of wine at hand. Ronald Jenner, NATURE This concise account easily can and should be read by all serious students of animal phylogeny evolution. William Arthur, SCIENCE