The recent marriage of evolutionary biology with developmental biology has resulted in the birth of a new field, evolutionary developmental biology, or "evo-devo."
Evo-devo scientists study the mechanisms that produce evolutionary changes in body plans over time. As one of the field's creators, Indiana University Bloomington biologist Rudolf Raff brings new understanding to the evolution of humans and other organisms by uniting fossil data and information about the genes that control development.
Major historical questions about the origin of multicellular animals, the Cambrian radiation and the origins of animal larvae can now be addressed using evo-devo's mechanistic tools.
Last month, the National Academy of Sciences chose Raff as the winner of its 2003 Elliott Medal for his role in founding evo-devo. Raff and IUB colleagues Loren Rieseberg, Thomas Kaufman, Michael Lynch and Jeffrey Palmer lead the largest concentration of evo-devo biologists in the nation.
In a presentation at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science titled "The Quick and the Dead: Developmental Genetics Meets Extinct Organisms," Raff will discuss how evo-devo will expand our understanding of the fossil record. He will show how and why some complex features in animal development may have evolved much more quickly than expected.
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Intelligent Design: The New 'Big Tent' For Evolution's Critics
Seattle - Feb 16, 2004
Since the advent of Darwinism in the mid-19th century, a variety of movements have jousted for the intellectual high ground in the epic evolution versus creationism debate. At one end of the spectrum reside the "naturalistic evolutionists" who argue that life neither requires nor benefits from a divine creator.
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