The Sciences

The "evo-devo" peak

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanAug 24, 2011 11:26 PM

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Jerry Coyne has a post up which critiques an extremely breathless review of a new book, Epigenetics Revolution. Overall I agree with the thrust of Coyne's take. Epigenetics is real, and probably important, but it doesn't imply that there's a revolution and that everything that has come before needs to be thrown out. But I was struck by one of Coyne's asides:

...This study has segued into the new field of “evo devo,” which tries to understand the evolutionary basis of developmental genetics. “Evo devo” itself has, of course, led to its own important discoveries, like the presence and conservation of homeobox genes, the use of the same genes over and over again in forming similar but non-homologous traits (e.g., PAX6 in the formation of fly eyes and vertebrate eyes), and the linear arrangement of genes in some organisms (e.g., Drosophila) that correspond to the linear arrangement of body parts they affect.

In the mid-2000s there was a lot of buzz around evolutionary developmental biology, "evo-devo" (or "evo devo"). The publication of Endless Forms Most Beautiful heralded this moment. But I wonder: whatever happened to evo-devo? Once the buzz abates fields can fade, or they can become so integrated into the body of knowledge that there isn't a need for buzz. I went to Google Scholar and looked for hits for "evo-devo." I projected 2011 results.

It looks like hits for evo-devo peaked a few years ago. My suspicion is that it's been integrated so much that there isn't a need to even introduce the term to scientific audiences unfamiliar with it.

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