The Conceptual Foundations of Evolution and Development
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When: Jun 22, 2023 03:00 PM Vienna
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Topic description / abstract:
Evolutionary developmental biology is often described as a new field that arose in the 1970s and early 1980s due to a realization within evolutionary biology that considerations of development had been excluded from the conceptual framework of the modern synthesis. While there is some truth in this, reality is much more complicated. For one, thinking about the relationship between development and evolution did not stop with the modern synthesis and, in fact, foundational work to evolutionary developmental biology was produced during this time. Secondly, much, even the majority, of work currently produced under the banner of evo-devo or evolutionary developmental biology does not actually address the ways in which development informs evolutionary explanation. Rather, it deals with comparative analyses of development-genetic pathways or mechanisms. I argue that both phenomena have occurred because there is not a good understand of what evolutionary developmental biology is about or what its central question or questions are. Instead the field has emerged is more a social construct than a conceptual one. But what is the conceptual core of this field? This is the question that my project at the KLI has sought to address. In this talk, I will argue for the need to define a conceptual framework for evolutionary developmental biology. I will also discuss the organization of the key concepts and how they relate to neighbouring fields outside of evolutionary biology such as genetics and the biomedical sciences.
Benedikt Hallgrimsson is an international leader in the quantitative analysis of anatomical variation. His work focuses on structural birth defects and the developmental genetics of complex traits as well as the conceptual foundations of evolutionary developmental biology. He integrates 3D imaging and morphometry with genetics and developmental biology. He was awarded the Rohlf Medal for Excellence in Morphometrics in 2015 and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2020). He has published >170 journal articles, 32 chapters, three edited volumes, and a textbook. Hallgrimsson has held leadership roles at the University of Calgary where he led creation of the Bachelor of Health Sciences and co-led the successful proposal to create a Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. He is currently Deputy Director for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and Head of the Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy.