The dynamics of development and evolution: insights from behavioral embryology.
ABSTRACT The perspective that features of species-typical behavior could be traced to experience that occurred prenatally was raised by Zing-Yang Kuo [1921 Journal of Philosophy 18: 645-664] early in the last century and Gilbert Gottlieb subsequently elaborated on and provided empirical support for this idea over the course of more than four decades of innovative psychobiological research. Although we are still a long way from fully understanding the specific pathways and processes by which prenatal experience can influence postnatal development, Gottlieb's research with precocial birds provided significant insights into the conditions and experiences of prenatal development involved in the achievement of species-typical perception and behavior. In particular, his elegant series of studies on the development of species identification in ducklings documented how the features and patterns of recurring prenatal sensory experience (including self-stimulation) guide and constrain the young individual's selective attention, perception, learning, and memory during both prenatal and postnatal periods. I review how this body of research supports the view that the structure and functions of the developing organism and its developmental ecology together form a relationship of mutual influence on the emergence, maintenance, and transformation of species-typical behavior. I also explore how Gottlieb's empirical demonstrations of the prenatal roots of so-called "instinctive" behavior provided a foundation for his conceptual efforts to define the links between developmental and evolutionary change.