Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 309-345

First online:

Evolutionary Morphology, Innovation, and the Synthesis of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology

  • Alan C. LoveAffiliated withDepartment of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

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One foundational question in contemporarybiology is how to `rejoin’ evolution anddevelopment. The emerging research program(evolutionary developmental biology or`evo-devo’) requires a meshing of disciplines,concepts, and explanations that have beendeveloped largely in independence over the pastcentury. In the attempt to comprehend thepresent separation between evolution anddevelopment much attention has been paid to thesplit between genetics and embryology in theearly part of the 20th century with itscodification in the exclusion of embryologyfrom the Modern Synthesis. This encourages acharacterization of evolutionary developmentalbiology as the marriage of evolutionary theoryand embryology via developmental genetics. Butthere remains a largely untold story about thesignificance of morphology and comparativeanatomy (also minimized in the ModernSynthesis). Functional and evolutionarymorphology are critical for understanding thedevelopment of a concept central toevolutionary developmental biology,evolutionary innovation. Highlighting thediscipline of morphology and the concepts ofinnovation and novelty provides an alternativeway of conceptualizing the `evo’ and the `devo’to be synthesized.

comparative anatomy developmental genetics embryology evolutionary developmental biology innovation morphology novelty synthesis typology