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- Evolution and Development: some insights from Evolutionary Theory

Evolution and Development: some insights from Evolutionary Theory


CNRS, Laboratoire Populations, Génétique et Evolution, 91198-Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Developmental biology and evolutionary biology are both mature integrative disciplines which started in the 19th century and then followed parallel and independent scientific pathways. Recently, a genetical component has stepped into both disciplines (developmental genetics and evolutionary genetics) pointing out the need for future convergent maturation. Indeed, the Evo-Devo approach is becoming popular among developmental biologists, based on the facts that distant groups share a common ancestry, that precise phylogenies can be worked out and that homologous genes often play similar roles during the development of very different organisms.

In this essay, I try to show that the real future of Evo-Devo thinking is still broader. The evolutionary theory is a set of diverse concepts which can and should be used in any biological field. Evolutionary thinking trains to ask « why » questions and to provide logical and plausible answers. It can shed some light on a diversity of general problems such as how to distinguish homologies from analogies, the costs and benefits of multicellularity, the origin of novel structures (e.g. the head), or the evolution of sexual reproduction. In the next decade, we may expect a progressive convergence between developmental genetics and quantitative genetics.

Key words: Quantitative genetics, multicellularity, analogy, homology, sexual reproduction.

An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc., Sept. 2001, vol.73, no.3, p.385-395. © 2006  Academia Brasileira de Ciências.

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