Chapter 1. The Evolutionary Developmental Biology of Tinkering: An Introduction to the Challenge

  1. Gregory Bock Organizer and
  2. Jamie Goode
  1. Daniel E. Lieberman1 and
  2. Brian K. Hall1,2

Published Online: 11 JUN 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470319390.ch1

Tinkering: The Microevolution of Development: Novartis Foundation Symposium 284

Tinkering: The Microevolution of Development: Novartis Foundation Symposium 284

How to Cite

Lieberman, D. E. and Hall, B. K. (2006) The Evolutionary Developmental Biology of Tinkering: An Introduction to the Challenge, in Tinkering: The Microevolution of Development: Novartis Foundation Symposium 284 (eds G. Bock and J. Goode), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470319390.ch1

Author Information

  1. 1

    Departments of Anthropology and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 11 JUN 2007
  2. Published Print: 8 JUN 2006

Book Series:

  1. Novartis Foundation Symposia

Book Series Editors:

  1. Novartis Foundation

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470034293

Online ISBN: 9780470319390

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Keywords:

  • evolutionary developmental biology of tinkering;
  • humans and EDB, population genetics and genomics;
  • gradualist versus punctuationalist views;
  • EDB of microevolutionary versus macroevolutionary events;
  • Duboule & Wilkins' ‘transitionism’

Summary

Recent developments in evolutionary biology have conflicting implications for our understanding of the developmental bases of microevolutionary processes. On the one hand, Darwinian theory predicts that evolution occurs mostly gradually and incrementally through selection on small-scale, heritable changes in phenotype within populations. On the other hand, many discoveries in evolutionary developmental biology–quite a few based on comparisons of distantly related model organisms–suggest that relatively simple transformations of developmental pathways can lead to dramatic, rapid change in phenotype. Here I review the history of and bases for gradualist versus punctuationalist views from a developmental perspective, and propose a framework with which to reconcile them. Notably, while tinkering with developmental pathways can underlie large-scale transformations in body plan, the phenotypic effect of these changes is often modulated by the complexity of the genetic and epigenetic contexts in which they develop. Thus the phenotypic effects of mutations of potentially large effect can manifest themselves rapidly, but they are more likely to emerge more incrementally over evolutionary time via transitional forms as natural selection within populations acts on their expression. To test these hypotheses, and to better understand how developmental shifts underlie microevolutionary change, future research needs to be directed at understanding how complex developmental networks, both genetic and epigenetic, structure the phenotypic effects of particular mutations within populations of organisms.