Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 128, Issue 1, pp 1–5 | Cite as

Preface. Between Ernst Haeckel and the homeobox: the role of developmental biology in explaining evolution

  • Lennart OlssonEmail author
  • Uwe Hoßfeld
  • Olaf Breidbach
Original Paper


The importance of embryonic development for evolutionary biology has been an issue ever since Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel, however, Modern Synthesis approaches to evolution have often neglected certain aspects of developmental biology or treated development as a black box (Mayr and Provine 1980; Breidbach and Ghiselin 2007a, b). Although Wallace’s statement that “problems concerned with the orderly development of the individual are unrelated to those of the evolution of organisms through time” (Wallace 1986, p. 149) is extreme, mid-twentieth century mainstream evolutionary biology did not feel much need for an integration of developmental biology into its theoretical foundations. The fact that evolutionary questions have been of interest to some developmental biologists between the era of Darwin and Haeckel and the 1980s, i.e., that modern evolutionary developmental biology, or Evo-devo, as the field is often called by its practitioners, in fact has a history, has...


Modern Synthesis Evolutionary Developmental Biology Developmental Biologist Secondary Adaptation Hopeful Monster 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant no. HO 2143/9-1) for generous support of our research into the history of Evo-devo. Empirical Evo-devo research in LOs laboratory is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grants no. OL 134/2-4 and 138/1) and by the Volkswagenstiftung.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Spezielle Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie mit Phyletischem MuseumFriedrich-Schiller-Universität JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.AG BiologiedidaktikFriedrich-Schiller-UniversitätJenaGermany
  3. 3.Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Naturwissenschaft und Technik, Ernst-Haeckel-HausFriedrich-Schiller-Universität JenaJenaGermany

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