Developmental constraints in a comparative framework: A test case using variations in phalanx number during amniote evolution
Article first published online: 20 MAR 2003
Copyright © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Volume 296B, Issue 1, pages 8–22, 15 April 2003
How to Cite
Richardson, M. K. and Chipman, A. D. (2003), Developmental constraints in a comparative framework: A test case using variations in phalanx number during amniote evolution. J. Exp. Zool., 296B: 8–22. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.13
- Issue published online: 20 MAR 2003
- Article first published online: 20 MAR 2003
- Manuscript Accepted: 18 NOV 2002
- Manuscript Received: 2 MAY 2002
Constraints are factors that limit evolutionary change. A subset of constraints is developmental, and acts during embryonic development. There is some uncertainty about how to define developmental constraints, and how to formulate them as testable hypotheses. Furthermore, concepts such as constraint-breaking, universal constraints, and forbidden morphologies present some conceptual difficulties. One of our aims is to clarify these issues. After briefly reviewing current classifications of constraint, we define developmental constraints as those affecting morphogenetic processes in ontogeny. They may be generative or selective, although a clear distinction cannot always be drawn. We support the idea that statements about constraints are in fact statements about the relative frequency of particular transformations (where ‘transformation’ indicates a change from the ancestral condition). An important consequence of this is that the same transformation may be constrained in one developmental or phylogenetic context, but evolutionarily plastic in another. In this paper, we analyse developmental constraints within a phylogenetic framework, building on similar work by previous authors. Our approach is based on the following assumptions from the literature: (1) constraints are identified when there is a discrepancy between the observed frequency of a transformation, and its expected frequency; (2) the ‘expected’ distribution is derived by examining the phylogenetic distribution of the transformation and its associated selection pressures. Thus, by looking for congruence between these various phylogenetic distribution patterns, we can test hypotheses about constraint. We critically examine this approach using a test case: variation in phalanx-number in the amniote limb. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 296B:8–22, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.