• Open Access

Primer and interviews: Molecular mechanisms of morphological evolution


  • Julie C. Kiefer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, 20 North 1900 East, 401 MREB, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84132
    Search for more papers by this author


The beauty of the developing embryo, and the awe that it inspires, lure many scientists into the field of developmental biology. What compels cells to divide, migrate, and morph into a being with a complex body plan? Evolutionary developmental biologists hold similar fascinations, with dynamics that take place on a grander timescale. How do phenotypic traits diverge over evolutionary time? This primer illustrates how a deep understanding of the basic principles that underlie developmental biology have changed how scientists think about the evolution of body form. The primer culminates in a conversation with David Stern, PhD, and Michael Shapiro, PhD, who discuss current topics in morphological evolution, why the field should be of interest to classic developmental biologists, and what lies ahead. Developmental Dynamics 239:3497–3505, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.