Perspectives on the history of evo-devo and the contemporary research landscape in the genomics era

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A fundamental question in biology is how the extraordinary range of living organisms arose. In this theme issue, we celebrate how evolutionary studies on the origins of morphological diversity have changed over the past 350 years since the first publication of the Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society. Current understanding of this topic is enriched by many disciplines, including anatomy, palaeontology, developmental biology, genetics and genomics. Development is central because it is the means by which genetic information of an organism is translated into morphology. The discovery of the genetic basis of development has revealed how changes in form can be inherited, leading to the emergence of the field known as evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). Recent approaches include imaging, quantitative morphometrics and, in particular, genomics, which brings a new dimension. Articles in this issue illustrate the contemporary evo-devo field by considering general principles emerging from genomics and how this and other approaches are applied to specific questions about the evolution of major transitions and innovations in morphology, diversification and modification of structures, intraspecific morphological variation and developmental plasticity. Current approaches enable a much broader range of organisms to be studied, thus building a better appreciation of the origins of morphological diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150473
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1713
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2017


  • Development
  • Evolution
  • Genomics
  • History of science
  • Homology
  • Morphological diversity


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