The Evolution of Developmental Pathways

Adam S. Wilkins, Institute of Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University, Berlin
Adam S. Wilkins, Institute of Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University, Berlin

The Evolution of Developmental Pathways

Sample Content
table of contents

Description

The contemporary field of evolutionary developmental biology is still a new subdiscipline of evolutionary biology, but it deals with some very old questions: how shape and form in complex organisms change during evolution. Integral to this subject are developmental genetics and molecular biology, and, increasingly, systematics, paleontology, and population genetics as well. The integration of the latter three subjects into evolutionary...

The contemporary field of evolutionary developmental biology is still a new subdiscipline of evolutionary biology, but it deals with some very old questions: how shape and form in complex organisms change during evolution. Integral to this subject are developmental genetics and molecular biology, and, increasingly, systematics, paleontology, and population genetics as well. The integration of the latter three subjects into evolutionary developmental biology is still in its early stages, however. A principal aim of this book is to introduce upper-level students and biologists in other disciplines to this field, and to present it within its larger context.

Despite the excitement about "evo-devo," it is a field that still lacks a set of formal principles of the sort that, for example, inform and give shape to population genetics and systematics. The second principal purpose of this book, therefore, is to suggest a useful general framework for thinking about developmental evolution. The book's organizing concept is that of the genetic pathway, the sequence of requisite genetic and molecular activities that underlie a developmental process. From this perspective, the author explores the nature of the genetic, molecular, and selectional events that alter these pathways, yielding developmental change.

The book is organized into three major sections. The first five chapters deal with the history of the field, the data it employs, and basic ideas that inform current research. The next three chapters are devoted to case studies in developmental evolution, starting with examples of currently favored model systems (e.g., Drosophila melanogaster) and building outward. Six subsequent chapters address questions and problems in the field and key questions for the future. Three appendices on specialized topics and a glossary complete the book.

read more

Adam Wilkins is Editor of the journal BioEssays. He earned a B.A. from Reed College, and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Washington, and completed post-doctoral fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin. A full-time academic until 1983, he has since held visiting professorships or lectureships at the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin, and the National University of Singapore. Dr. Wilkins is the author of two editions of Genetic Analysis of Animal Development (John Wiley & Sons, 1986 & 1993), and co-editor of Molecular Evolution (Jones and Bartlett, 1984, with E. A. Terzaghi and D. Penny) and Molecular Model Systems in the Lepidoptera (Cambridge University Press, 1995, with M. Goldsmith). His particular research interest, at present, is the evolution of sex determination pathways.

"... this is a splendid book. Wilkins has produced a lively, readable and thoughtful work that will help readers to see the discipline with new rigour and provide a source for stimulating discussions in evo–devo courses."
—Rudolf A. Raff, Nature

"Students and professionals interested in the fields of evolution, development, or genetics as well as those drawn to the interdisciplinary field ("evo–devo") that lies at their intersection will find Adam Wilkins's The Evolution of Developmental Pathways a must read."
—Billie J. Swalla, Science

"Wilkins takes a relatively comprehensive look at the lively field of evo–devo. His molecular developmental perspective is extended and connected more successfully to the fields of population genetics and evolution than perhaps are any previous attempts. This well-referenced (1500 references) book is accessible to researchers in the fields of population biology, ecology, paleontology, systematics, and evolution who are seriously interested in broadening and updating their understanding of molecular developmental biology."
—Paula Mabee, BioScience

"As an introductory overview of the field, this is probably one of the best textbooks currently available, and would be suitable for any advanced undergraduate or graduate Evo–Devo course."
—Jeremy J. Gibson-Brown, The Quarterly Review of Biology

"... what Wilkins has clearly defined for the reader in this book is a way to be both bold and austere in our approach to EDB. The boldness comes from examining the important and unanswered questions in evolutionary biology from a developmental perspective. The austerity comes from transforming the developmental data into characters that can then be used to test hypotheses about the history of life in a phylogenetic context."
—Rob DeSalle, BioEssays

"A number of books have been published on development and evolution during the last four years. Adam Wilkins' book, The Evolution of Developmental Pathways, is the most scholarly and thoughtful of the lot."
—Gary L. Freeman, University of Texas at Austin

"The emphasis on the modularity of gene networks and of developmental pathways, and their role in evolutionary change, is an important rejoinder to lingering notions of 'one gene—one structure,' or 'the gene for teeth.' Understanding the evolutionary divergence of genes and developmental processes downstream of the conserved genes or events that initiate developmental pathways is one on the next great challenges for evo—devo, a challenge made easier by the analysis provided by Adam Wilkins."
—Brian K. Hall, Dalhousie University