Evolutionary Developmental Biology

What we do:

We seek to understand how changes in developmental programs have shaped the evolution of morphological diversity.

Evolutionary developmental biology (EDB, but often called “Evo-Devo”) integrates traditional research on organismal evolutionary biology (systematics, paleontology, and comparative anatomy) with molecular embryology, genetics and genomics. EDB is a thriving new sub-discipline of biology with its own questions, approaches and methods. The field seeks to forge a unifying integration of genomic, developmental, organismal, population, paleontological and natural selection approaches to evolutionary change.

Current areas of research include:

  • The genetic and developmental basis for morphological variation at micro- and macro- evolutionary time scales
  • The evolution and development of the germline
  • Life history and craniofacial evolution in vertebrates
  • The evolution of floral novelty



Faculty in other Departments:

Craig Hunter (MCB)
Daniel E. Lieberman (Human Evolutionary Biology)
Mark Kirschner (HMS, Systems Biology)
Andy McMahon (MCB)
Doug Melton (MCB, DRB)
Andrew Murray (MCB)
Gary Ruvkun (HMS, Genetics)
Tom Schultheiss (HMS, Beth Israel Deaconess)
Cliff Tabin (HMS, Genetics)


Selected courses in Evolutionary Developmental Biology:

Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals (OEB 51)
Evolutionary Biology (OEB 53)
Plant Development and Differentiation (OEB 106)
Evolution of Plant Life in Geologic Time (OEB 107)
Evolutionary Developmental Biology in Animals (OEB 115)
Developmental Mechanisms of Evolutionary Change (OEB 261r)
Topics in Plant Developmental
Genetics (OEB 268r)
Origin and Evolution of
Vertebrate Complex Systems (OEB 272r)
From Egg to Embryo to Organ (MCB 118)
Genetics, Genomics and Evolutionary Biology (MCB291)

Course Spotlight

Evolutionary Developmental Biology in Animals (OEB 115)
Half course (fall term). Hours to be arranged.

A lecture course in evolutionary developmental biology. Main principles and mechanisms of development as illustrated on both invertebrate and vertebrate animal model systems. In this course we will discuss how animal embryos develop adult body plans on cellular and molecular level. Particular emphasis will be placed on how knowledge of developmental biology helps us understand major evolutionary transitions and the origin of innovation in animal evolution.
Prerequisite: Life Sciences 1a and 1b, OEB 10 or permission of instructor.