• growth;
  • development;
  • quantitative trait loci;
  • functional mapping;
  • complex trait

Understanding how an organism develops into a fully functioning adult from a mass of undifferentiated cells may reveal different strategies that allow the organism to survive under limiting conditions. Here, we review an analytical model for characterizing quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that underlie variation in growth trajectories and developmental timing. This model, called functional mapping, incorporates fundamental principles behind biological processes or networks that are bridged with mathematical functions into a statistical mapping framework. Functional mapping estimates parameters that determine the shape and function of a particular biological process, thus providing a flexible platform to test biologically meaningful hypotheses regarding the complex relationships between gene action and development.