Evolution of Development

(E&EB 390b/690b)


When? Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00-10:15 am

Where? 201 OML

Who is teaching it? Dr. Antónia Monteiro

Office Hours: Friday mornings (9 to 11 am) at OML room 326A

Recomended textbook: From DNA to Diversity, 2nd Edition, by Sean B. Carroll, Jennifer K. Grenier, Scott D. Weatherbee

This is a seminar course, i.e., student participation is an important element of this course. There will be a mix of lecturing and discussing material from the primary literature. This material will be handed to you in advance. Students will also be required to prepare discussion topics in advance to bring to class.

Course objectives: The objectives of this course are to integrate two disciplines, Evolutionary Biology and Developmental Biology into a common framework. The focus will be on the evolution of developmental pathways in order to explain the evolution of animal morphology. Traditional Evolutionary Biology does not cover the "black box" of development, i.e., the way mutations influence the processes of gene regulation, tissue growth, and cell and organ differentiation that ultimately influence the appearance of an organism. On the other hand, Developmental Biology focuses mostly on understanding the processes of development in single model organisms, disregarding variation that exists in members of the population, and members of closely related species. This course will explore how our growing knowledge of developmental circuits, and their variation, affects our understanding of how organisms evolve.

Course prerequisites: Course level is at the 300-600 level. Upper division undergraduates, and graduate students. The course requires some level of basic training in Evolutionary Biology and Developmental Biology in order to enable students to integrate these disciplines throughout the course.

Course Syllabus

1st class: Introduction-basic principles of population genetics – refresher quiz
2nd class: From population genetics to tree thinking
3rd class: Animal origins and the fossil record (Valentine et al. 1999)
4th class: Evolution of complexity (Mcshea1996)
5th class: Adaptation versus constraint (Richardson and Chipman 2003)
6th class: Organizers, fields, morphogens and selector genes
7th class: Selector genes – Pax6 (Halder et al. 1995)
8th class: Homeotic genes and segmental identity (Averof and Patel 1997)
9th class: The function and evolution of cis-regulatory DNA
10th class: Homeotic genes (cont.) (Ronshaugen et al. 2002).
11th class: Micro versus Macro evolution (Budd et al. 1999)
12th class: Genetic assimilation (Wadington 1956; Gibson et al. 1996)
13th class: Evolution of wings (Averof and Cohen 1997 (required); Jochusch and Ober 2004 (supplemental))
14th class: Mid term exam

15th class: Evolution of the tetrapod limb (Freitas et al. 2006)
16th class: Patterning serial homologous structures (Weatherbee et al. 1999)
17th class: Evolution of modularity (Schlosser 2003)
18th class: Uncoupling serial homologues (Beldade et al. 2002; Frankino et al. 2004)
19th class: DDC model of gene evolution (Force et al. 1999)
20th class: Parallelism in bird coloration (Mundy et al. 2004; Hoekstra and Price 2004)

21nd class: Convergence in cmplex traits (Prud'homme et al. 2006)
22rd class: Adaptive evolution and eye degeneration in cave fish (Jeffery 2005)

23th class: Robusteness in developmental networks (von Dassow et al. 2000)
24th class: Homology (Gilbert and Bolker 2001)
25th class: Eyespot evolution (Monteiro et al. 2006)

Both graduate and undergraduate students will be required to present papers from the primary literature to the rest of the class. Papers will be handed during the first day of class.

Everyone is obliged to read the papers that will be presented by a fellow student. At the beginning of each presentation, there will be a short quiz about the contents of the paper. Paper presentations can be made using Powerpoint or transparencies. Description of the paper contents should take a maximum time of 15 minutes. The remaining class time should be devoted to the student leading a discussion on the paper.

Grades for the course will be based on the students ability to present and lead a class discussion on the papers, and on the average of the quiz scores.


Graduate students

Paper presentations

100 points

200 points


100 points

50 points


100 points

50 points


300 points

300 points