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What are the most exciting questions in the Evolution of Development?

The surprising commonalties of developmental gene families among organisms and the relatively small number of these gene families lead to a fascinating series of evolutionary questions. How did these families evolve? How do they work in different species? Given the advances in developmental biology, genomics, and phylogenetics, the developmental and genomic bases for evolutionary innovation are ripe for investigation. Exploring these questions will provide insight into how natural selection, coupled with developmental constraints, has led to the vast array of morphologies found in diverse environments. Participants targeted the following evolutionary questions for investigation:

  • What can we learn about the evolution of the genetic tool kit for development?
  • How does this same tool kit (sets of genes) create distinct morphologies iniverse environments? That is, given the shared evolutionary history of genes and proteins involved in development, how have distinct functions arisen?
  • How do we explain the Hox and MADS box paradoxes?
  • How did multicellularity arise in unique ways in plants and animals?
  • How did common tool kits diverge into distinct tool kits in the major trunks of the Tree of Life (ToL)?
  • What are the mechanisms and origins of polyphenism in species?

  • Which sets of developmental genes define a module or cassette? What is the role of developmental modules in life histories
  • Can the study of gene regulatory changes in evolution allow us to crack the code for cis-regulation of gene expression?
  • How do the major developmental gene families work in different branches of the ToL? Are there correlative changes with major evolutionary transitions such as adaptation to terrestrial environments?
  • How do we move from understanding the evolution of regulatory networks to understanding population level changes that have allowed organisms to adapt to new environments
  • What are the various mechanisms that have led to genome modifications and how do these relate to evolving developmental mechanisms?
  • How has duplication and divergence of genes altered developmental mechanisms?
  • How have genes been co-opted for other developmental functions?
  • What role has genome modification played in co-evolution of species?
  • How do developmental constraints affect evolution?

It is clear that an understanding of these major questions will provide tremendous insight into evolution. Combining developmental, genomic, functional analysis and phylogenetic expertise will bring us full circle to a mechanistic understanding of evolution as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth in 2008.


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Table of Contents

Evolution of Development meets Tree Of Life

What are the most exciting questions in the Evolution of Development?

Which resources are necessary to address the key questions about the Evolution of Development?

How does the community exploit these increased resources for functional analyses needed to address the major questions in Evo-Devo?