We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

The Evolution of Developmental Pathways

Adam S. Wilkins

Publication Date - 10 December 2001

ISBN: 9780878939169

575 pages
7 x 9 inches

Introduces upper-level students and biologists in other disciplines to evolutionary developmental biology and presents it within its larger context


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.

About the Author(s)

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.


"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

Table of Contents

    PART I. Context and Foundations

    1. Evolution and Embryology: A Brief History of a Complex Pas de Deux

    2. Information Sources for Reconstructing Developmental Evolution: Fossils

    3. Information Sources for Reconstructing Developmental Evolution: Comparative Molecular Studies

    4. Genetic Pathways and Networks in Development

    5. Conserved Genes and Functions in Animal Development

    PART II. Case Studies in Pathway Evolution

    6. Evolving Developmental Pathways I: Sex Determination

    7. Evolving Developmental Pathways II: Segmental Patterning in Insects

    8. Evolving Developmental Pathways III: Two Organ Fields,The Nematode Vulva and the Tetrapod Limb

    PART III. Conundrums

    9. Genetic Source Materials for Developmental Evolution

    10. Costs and Constraints: Factors that Retard and Channel Developmental Evolution

    11. On Growth and Form: The Developmental and Evolutionary Genetics of Morphogenesis

    12. Speciation and Developmental Evolution

    13. Metazoan Origins and the Beginnings of Complex Animal Evolution

    14. The Coming Evolution of Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Related Titles