Evolution and development of shape: integrating quantitative approaches

Nat Rev Genet. 2010 Sep;11(9):623-35. doi: 10.1038/nrg2829. Epub 2010 Aug 10.


Morphological traits have long been a focus of evolutionary developmental biology ('evo-devo'), but new methods for quantifying shape variation are opening unprecedented possibilities for investigating the developmental basis of evolutionary change. Morphometric analyses are revealing that development mediates complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors affecting shape. Evolution results from changes in those interactions, as natural selection favours shapes that more effectively perform some fitness-related functions. Quantitative studies of shape can characterize developmental and genetic effects and discover their relative importance. They integrate evo-devo and related disciplines into a coherent understanding of evolutionary processes from populations to large-scale evolutionary radiations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Developmental Biology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Morphogenesis
  • Selection, Genetic