Sequence heterochrony and the evolution of development.
One of the most persistent questions in comparative developmental biology concerns whether there are general rules by which ontogeny and phylogeny are related. Answering this question requires conceptual and analytic approaches that allow biologists to examine a wide range of developmental events in well-structured phylogenetic contexts. For evolutionary biologists, one of the most dominant approaches to comparative developmental biology has centered around the concept of heterochrony. However, in recent years the focus of studies of heterochrony largely has been limited to one aspect, changes in size and shape. I argue that this focus has restricted the kinds of questions that have been asked about the patterns of developmental change in phylogeny, which has narrowed our ability to address some of the most fundamental questions about development and evolution. Here I contrast the approaches of growth heterochrony with a broader view of heterochrony that concentrates on changes in developmental sequence. I discuss a general approach to sequence heterochrony and summarize newly emerging methods to analyze a variety of kinds of developmental change in explicit phylogenetic contexts. Finally, I summarize a series of studies on the evolution of development in mammals that use these new approaches.
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