Mechanisms of Morphogenesis, 2nd edn Developmental Biology, 10th edn Mechanisms of Morphogenesis, 2nd edn. Written by J. A. Davies. ISBN 978-0-391062-2. x1 + 401 pp. Hardback: £76.00. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 2013.
Developmental Biology, 10th edn. Written by S. Gilbert. ISBN 978-0-12-87893-978-7. xx +720 + indexes pp. Hardback: $118.96, £52.99; paperback: $77.32. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Press. 2013.
Article first published online: 30 OCT 2013
© 2013 Anatomical Society
Journal of Anatomy
Volume 224, Issue 2, page 250, February 2014
How to Cite
Bard, J. (2014), Mechanisms of Morphogenesis, 2nd edn Developmental Biology, 10th edn Mechanisms of Morphogenesis, 2nd edn. Written by J. A. Davies. ISBN 978-0-391062-2. x1 + 401 pp. Hardback: £76.00. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 2013. Journal of Anatomy, 224: 250. doi: 10.1111/joa.12136
- Issue published online: 17 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 30 OCT 2013
The first edition of Davies' book was called Mechanisms of Morphogenesis: the creation of biological form and, when I reviewed it back in 2005, I lauded it for its strength and clarity on the mechanisms and regretted only that it paid so little attention to the creation of biological form. The second edition is just called Mechanisms of Morphogenesis and this is surprising. It not only contains what it says on the cover, but now includes much more about the creation of biological form; indeed, it is probably the best book so far written on building anatomy during development.
The title of the first five chapters in the new edition are as they were in the old (Introduction, Cell shape and cell morphogenesis, Cell migration, epithelial morphogenesis and Morphogenesis by cell proliferation and death), but the contents have been shortened, sharpened and brought up to date, with the saved pages being used to show how the mechanisms are used in embryos to create structure. The reader will find the complete morphogenetic toolkit for animal and plant cells and thoughts on the construction of many tissues. The only obvious gap left for a third edition is the shaping of bones.
The real novelty of the book is the new chapter on Modelling Morphogenesis. This focuses on mechanical and mathematical models of morphogenesis and on how synthetic biology can be used to explore the genesis of tissues. It does not merely review the small amounts of work so far done in this area but explores what is possible and how it can be done. Morphogenesis really is ripe for computational biologists to get to work on and, when they do, this chapter will be compulsory reading both for them as well as for the next generation of developmental anatomists!
And that of course is Davies' intention: he would like to see the book being widely used in honours and graduate courses because he feels that this is an exciting and important area where current technology has opened up a subject that has long been seen as too complicated to work on. He is right as the mechanistic basis of developmental structures is the one area of anatomy where our knowledge is weak but where the door is opening. As an incentive to those who want to teach more about morphogenesis, all the pictures in the book are available as downloadable powerpoint slides. It is not always necessary to buy second editions of good books, but it is here.
In the context of teaching, it is worth mentioning that the 10th edition of Scott Gilbert's iconic Developmental Biology is now available and it now some 30 years since he started work on the first edition. Each has reflected the current state of the subject and this edition is no different: not only have the sections on stem cells and systems biology have been expanded, but the way in which development as a whole is handled has been completely rewritten and updated, as have the references. Looking through it, I particularly enjoyed the last chapters on eco-devo (a subject that SG probably invented) and evo-devo, where, as ever, he captures the zeitgeist on how variation during development achieves change in the adult. Each copy also includes access to an upgrade of the rich and useful devbio website which contains important ancillary detail. Another necessary purchase for developmental biologists!
Finally, it should be noted that Scott Gilbert has recently retired and, as he will no longer have students groups on which to test new ideas and text, this may be the last edition of Developmental Biology. It will certainly be the last that he will write on his own. The community of developmental biologists should not let his labours end without expressing to him our appreciation for keeping to make available to us a summary of our subject that is always up to date, that is beautifully written and illustrated and that continually manages to put the research successes of the moment into their full historic and developmental context. Scott Gilbert is the pre-eminent scholar of developmental biology, and the students, teachers and research workers of our generation are fortunate to have been able to use and to enjoy the books that he has clearly loved writing.