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Keywords:

  • development;
  • fossils;
  • G-matrix;
  • modern synthesis;
  • palaeontology

Abstract

Evo-devo is featuring prominently in current discussion to extend evolutionary theory. Developmental palaeontology, the study of life history evolution and ontogeny in fossils, remains an area of investigation that could benefit from, but also illuminate, the discourse and research agenda of evo-devo. Understanding how and why evolution proceeds in phenotypic space is an important goal of evo-devo and one that can be significantly enriched through the examination of development in the fossil record (Palaeo-evo-devo). Such an approach permits developmental pathways to be extended into the past, constraining hypotheses of developmental evolution in ways that cannot be predicted by patterns observed from extant taxa alone. The comparison of developmental dynamics among extant and extinct taxa yields a more complete understanding of the temporal persistence of factors that shape evolution in phenotypic space. As more data are compiled that document ‘fossilized ontogenies’, a stage will emerge from which insights into the evolution of development can begin to appraise those phenotypes that are inaccessible to evo-devo.