Bridging the gap between developmental systems theory and evolutionary developmental biology


  • Order of authors is random; the authors contributed equally to this paper.


Many scientists and philosophers of science are troubled by the relative isolation of developmental from evolutionary biology. Reconciling the science of development with the science of heredity preoccupied a minority of biologists for much of the twentieth century, but these efforts were not corporately successful. Mainly in the past fifteen years, however, these previously dispersed integrating programmes have been themselves synthesized and so reinvigorated. Two of these more recent synthesizing endeavours are evolutionary developmental biology (EDB, or “evo-devo”) and developmental systems theory (DST). While the former is a bourgeoning and scientifically well-respected biological discipline, the same cannot be said of DST, which is virtually unknown among biologists. In this review, we provide overviews of DST and EDB, summarize their key tenets, examine how they relate to one another and to the study of epigenetics, and survey the impact that DST and EDB have had (and in future should have) on biological theory and practice. BioEssays 23:954–962, 2001. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.