Where is the Evo in Evo-Devo (Evolutionary Developmental Biology)

Dec 1, 2015

I provide a brief discussion of the present/future of Evo-Devo, reviewing opinions expressed by colleagues with different opinions/backgrounds about what Evo-Devo should be and the potential of this flourishing field and combining them with an analysis of the recent, and excellent inaugural meeting of the Pan-American Society for Evo-Devo. As an advocate of Evo-Devo and its enormous future potential, I feel that despite our different views and fields of research, we Evo-Devoists are all in the same boat and should try our best to make sure this potential is fully expressed. Therefore, I call attention to some concerns raised by other colleagues, which in my opinion are demonstrated by a quantitative analysis of the titles/abstracts of the 56 talks at this meeting. This analysis is very simple, in order to maintain the needed objectivity and minimize bias. Yet, it is profound in its implications, precisely because of its simplicity and because this meeting is clearly a major landmark for the development/future directions of Evo-Devo. The analysis shows that terms associated with development at the more molecular/genetic level were vastly overrepresented compared to terms related to evolution or to development at the whole organism level. That is, it provides support for the idea that current Evo-Devo is mainly focused on Devo, and that Devo itself is largely focused on "Geno," that is, on molecular/genetic developmental studies. This trend seems to be leading towards a loss of focus on the whole organism and on the major microevolutionary and macroevolutionary questions/theories that remain to be solved/tested. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 9999B:XX-XX, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.