The future of evolutionary developmental biology

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Combining fields as diverse as comparative embryology, palaeontology, molecular phylogenetics and genome analysis, the new discipline of evolutionary developmental biology aims at explaining how developmental processes and mechanisms become modified during evolution, and how these modifications produce changes in animal morphology and body plans. In the next century this should give us far greater mechanistic insight into how evolution has produced the vast diversity of living organisms, past and present.

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Figure 1: ‘Man is but a worm’ reproduced from Punch's Almanac for 1882.

Reproduced with permission of Punch Ltd.

Figure 2: Proposed phylogeny of the animal kingdom, based primarily on 18S rDNA sequences6,8 and Hox gene cluster composition9.

CORBIS/G. BALAVOINE/B.OKAMURA

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Acknowledgements

I thank M. Cohn, S. Shimeld and A. Holland for comments on the manuscript, B. Okamura for the bryozoan photograph in Fig. 2, and B. Cohen, M. Telford and other colleagues for helpful discussions. I hope that non-animal biologists will excuse my zoocentric selection of examples.

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Correspondence to Peter W. H. Holland.

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Holland, P. The future of evolutionary developmental biology. Nature 402, C41–C44 (1999) doi:10.1038/35011536

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