Research Topic

Evolution of organismal form: from regulatory interactions to developmental processes and biological patterns

About this Research Topic

Living organisms display an astonishing morphological and behavioral diversity which is largely driven by changes in developmental processes. In turn, such processes rely on a myriad of regulatory interactions occurring at all possible steps of gene expression and cellular function. It is a particularly ...

Living organisms display an astonishing morphological and behavioral diversity which is largely driven by changes in developmental processes. In turn, such processes rely on a myriad of regulatory interactions occurring at all possible steps of gene expression and cellular function. It is a particularly exciting time for evolutionary developmental biology, or EvoDevo, as the advent of powerful imaging and sequencing technologies has allowed the study of virtually any living and fossil organisms in ways that were unthinkable only a few years ago. Given the huge variety of biological processes, ecological and phylogenetic contexts, and species considered, grabbing a detailed understanding of the evolutionary process represents a daunting task which is still ongoing and which embraces a series of fundamental concepts, such as:

-Understanding the molecular and cellular changes underlying the origin of derived and unique phenotypes, polarized in the light of an accurate phylogenetic framework (adaptation, novelty).
-Identifying the cell types and ancient molecular toolkits inherited from a remote common ancestor (deep homology).
-Deciphering the complex genotype-phenotype relationships, for instance, between genome size and organismal complexity, between genome conservation and morphology, or between enhancer conservation and transcriptional output.
-Uncovering the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms facilitating the evolution of developmental processes at molecular, cellular and tissular levels (evolvability).
-Assessing the contribution of unstable and mobile sequences (e.g. simple repeats, transposons, “junk DNA”) to phenotypic evolution.
-Examining how often similar phenotypes occurs through modification of the activity of orthologous and/or non-orthologous genes (convergence).
-Understanding if ecological adaptations generally result from standing genetic variation or from de novo mutations.
-Analyzing if some particular gene regions (e.g. open reading frame, transcriptional enhancer, splice site, UTRs etc…) are more frequently involved in specific evolutionary changes.

Undoubtedly, tackling these questions will require a collective and collaborative effort between international EvoDevo laboratories. Therefore, in this research topic, we have wished to gather recent scientific evidence in order to illustrate how fast the EvoDevo field is changing, and how much it has been benefitting from adopting a strong interdisciplinary dimension applied to a broad range of species. Research articles and reviews focusing on animals and plants, living or fossilized, are welcome.


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