Why do the best-known examples of evolutionary change involve the alteration of one kind of animal into another very similar one, like the evolution of a bigger beak in a bird? Wouldn't it be much more interesting to understand how beaks originated? Most people would agree, but until recently we didn't know much about such origins. That is now changing, with the growth of the interdisciplinary field evo-devo, which deals with the relationship between how embryos develop in the short term and how they (and the adults they grow into) evolve in the long term. One of the key questions is: can the origins of structures such as beaks, eyes, and shells be explained within a Darwinian framework? The answer seems to be yes, but only by expanding that framework. Understanding Evo-Devo discusses the required expansion, and the current state of play regarding our understanding of evolutionary and developmental origins.
1. What is evo-devo and why is it important?
2. Antecedents of evo-devo
3. Evolutionary and developmental essentials
4. Evo-devo essentials
5. The evolution of variations on a theme
6. The evolutionary origins of themes and novelties
7. The evolutionary origins of body plans
8. Body plan features and toolkit genes
9. Bringing it all together
Summary of common misunderstandings
Wallace Arthur was one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of evo-devo (evolutionary developmental biology) in the 1980s. He was a founding editor of the journal Evolution and Development. His interests are focused on the evolutionary origins of novel types of animal, and how these origins may differ from 'routine evolution'.
"Wallace Arthur treats his readers to an eminently readable but still deeply rooted introduction into one of the most significant achievements of evolutionary biology: how evolutionary developmental biology put the organism back into the centre of evolutionary thinking."
– Günter P. Wagner, Yale University, USA
"Evo-devo deals with the multiple connections that exist between the biological processes of evolution and development. However, as an interface subject, there is a plurality of views on its content and its boundaries. In spite of that, Wallace Arthur has succeeded in writing an extremely clear and highly accessible guide to this fascinating, multifaceted discipline. Using the concept of 'developmental repatterning' as a common thread, the book provides a balanced view of evo-devo, covering its main achievements and future challenges. This is an ideal entry point for the non-specialist, but also a stimulating read for the practitioner who wants to consider her/his research in a wider perspective."
– Giuseppe Fusco, University of Padova, Italy
"Occasionally I feel that the field of Evolution and Development has lost its way, becoming submerged in myriad examples and details that don't expand our understanding of life. Wallace's book expounds the intellectual underpinnings of Evolution and Development, leads us through the key questions, and finally shows how the details and examples inform our future understanding. This book provides not just a guide to Evolution and Development, but also a spur to refocus and redouble our efforts to use development to help understand the evolution of life on Earth."
– Peter Dearden, University of Otago, New Zealand