Article

Evolution of Ontogeny and Nature of Heterochronies

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Abstract

Every aspect of biological orderliness is a result of evolution, which expresses the systemic reorganization of organismal body plan, along with the way of its ontogenetic formation. Phyletic changes in the developmental rates (heterochronies) experienced by the organism or its structures exemplify just a kind of such consequences. The current belief that heterochronies are the causes of evolutionary events is based on the assumption that evolution of ontogeny proceeds in the same way as the ontogeny itself, i.e., from a germ cell to adult state. This premise (termed here “the central dogma”) is the cornerstone of traditional ideas of the evolutionary mechanism, regardless of whether it is perceived in terms of gene mutations or “embryonic modes.” In fact, the directions of two transformations compared are opposite each other. An evolutionary change in the body plan results from reorganization of the developmental system, which comes in response to disturbance of stability of the system’s terminal (adult) state. Realized by selection, this change starts immediately from the terminal state and then spreads in generations towards early ontogenetic stages. Heterochronies show just the same dynamics of events irrespective of whether they reflect the acceleration or delay of development. Empirically, such course of evolutionary changes was grounded most evidently by Severtsov in the early version of his concept of the phylembryogenesis. The theoretical basis of the same regularity is provided by the Schmalhausen–Waddington’s theory.

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... In line with this dominating belief, the vector of evolutionary changes is directly identified with the course of ontogeny (which, in turn, inspires students to attempted restorations of evolutionary mechanisms based on the ontogenetic events). This postulate, which constitutes a kind of the "central dogma" of traditional evolutionary thinking (Shishkin, 2010(Shishkin, , 2016, may have different interpretations (see below). But in any case, by default, it assumes that the orderly correspondence between the type of germ cell and the adult organization (a property of normal ontogeny) is the only conceivable mode of relations between them, and thus it can undergo transformation only as a whole, i.e. by a leap in a course of the generation change. ...
Article
Evolution of living systems is a succession of historical changes in their equilibrium states. In the individual life cycle, every such state is realized as an equilibrium of developmental system, i.e. as its adult organizational norm. A trigger for a switching the system to a search for a new equilibrium is the loss under critical conditions of effective regulation of normal development towards uniform final state. This is manifested by replacement of the adult norm by its individual deviations. Thus, the organizational change begins with its adult state, which is the first to undergo the disturbance under new conditions. Accordingly, with the transition of the organization to a new equilibrium, the remodeling of the developmental system extends in generations from the adult stage to earlier ones. These premises contrast with the accepted belief that evolutionary events begin with individual changes in the germ cell. The only substantiated alternative to the last approach is objectively presented by the concepts of Schmalhausen and Waddington, in which the change in systemic organization starts with stabilization of selected phenotypic variations generated by violation of the current adult norm. The evolutionary spreading of organizational changes towards the early developmental stages constitutes in this case a natural consequence of the stabilization process. This course of events is actually reflected in different ways in the many empirical generalizations that have grown in the scope of more traditional views. It may be predicted that this pattern will come to provide a basis for a revised understanding of the evolutionary process.
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Article
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Article
Full-text available
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Full-text available
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Abstract. -We present a quantitative method for describing how heterochronic changes in ontogeny relate to phyletic trends. This is a step towards creating a unified view of developmental biology and evolu- tionary ecology in the study of morphological evolution. Using this ...
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One of the most persistent questions in comparative developmental biology concerns whether there are general rules by which ontogeny and phylogeny are related. Answering this question requires conceptual and analytic approaches that allow biologists to examine a wide range of developmental events in well-structured phylogenetic contexts. For evolutionary biologists, one of the most dominant approaches to comparative developmental biology has centered around the concept of heterochrony. However, in recent years the focus of studies of heterochrony largely has been limited to one aspect, changes in size and shape. I argue that this focus has restricted the kinds of questions that have been asked about the patterns of developmental change in phylogeny, which has narrowed our ability to address some of the most fundamental questions about development and evolution. Here I contrast the approaches of growth heterochrony with a broader view of heterochrony that concentrates on changes in developmental sequence. I discuss a general approach to sequence heterochrony and summarize newly emerging methods to analyze a variety of kinds of developmental change in explicit phylogenetic contexts. Finally, I summarize a series of studies on the evolution of development in mammals that use these new approaches.
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