Reversing opinions on Dollo's Law

Trends Ecol Evol. 2008 Nov;23(11):602-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2008.06.013. Epub 2008 Sep 22.


Dollo's Law, the idea that the loss of complex features in evolution is irreversible, is a popular concept in evolutionary biology. Here we review how application of recent phylogenetic methods, genomics and evo-devo approaches is changing our view of Dollo's Law and its underlying mechanisms. Phylogenetic studies have recently demonstrated cases where seemingly complex features such as digits and wings have been reacquired. Meanwhile, large genomics databases and evo-devo studies are showing how the underlying developmental pathways and genetic architecture can be retained after the loss of a character. With dwindling evidence for the law-like nature of Dollo's Law, we anticipate a return to Dollo's original focus on irreversibility of all kinds of changes, not exclusively losses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chickens / anatomy & histology
  • Chickens / genetics
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Tooth / anatomy & histology