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by the Understanding Evolution team

Development is the process through which an embryo becomes an adult organism and eventually dies. Through development, an organism's genotype is expressed as a phenotype, exposing genes to the action of natural selection.

Chick development

Studies of development are important to evolutionary biology for several reasons. This area of research can help us understand:

In this section we will explore these key questions:
  • How does studying an organismís development help us understand its evolutionary relationships?

  • Does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny? Why or why not?

  • What is a developmental constraint?

  • In what ways can evolutionary changes in the development of an organism affect its morphology?

  • What are Hox genes, and what role do they play in evolution?

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