The "evo-devo" peak

By Razib Khan | August 24, 2011 7:26 pm

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.

  • Carl Zimmer

    Not sure “evo devo” is the right term to use to track evo devo. There are whole journals now dedicated to the subject, like Evolution and Development:

  • b9n10nt

    Wouldn’t you also credit “Evo-Devo” with discovering the preponderance of regulatory sequence cascades?


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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