Tag Archives: evo-devo

Stephen Jay Gould, Pere Alberch and evo-devo

Gould copertinaCaianiello S, ed. Da Gould a evo-devo. Percorsi storici e teorici. Roma: CNR Edizioni.

ISBN 978-88-8080-125-2

You can read the whole book online – OPEN ACCESS! It is the publisher’s policy one year after publication.


Serrelli E (2014). Stephen Jay Gould, Pere Alberch e il modello-orologio dell’eterocronia: incontro e divergenza alle origini di evo-devo. Caianiello S, ed. Da Gould a evo-devo. Percorsi storici e teorici. Roma: CNR Edizioni, pp. 97-128. ISBN 978-88-8080-125-2  [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/60530]

gould clock model of heterochronyStephen Jay Gould’s book Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), recently translated into Italian, is unanimously considered as one of the founding texts of evo-devo. Pere Alberch, another pioneer of the field, was early stimulated by reading Gould’s book. In particular, he got into the “clock model”, an image devised by Gould to organize thinking and terminology about heterochrony (i.e., evolutionary change of the timing of developmental processes). Alberch engaged Gould in a formalization of the clock model, which they published in 1979. After that work, however, the two authors diverged. Alberch noticed inconsistencies in the view of development they had adopted, and moved on towards a more dynamic view. Gould didn’t follow this route, and remained largely insensitive to Alberch’s work. Reflection on this debate allows for a clarification of the assumptions of different approaches to ontogenic development. Particular attention is given to the dynamical systems approach, grasped by Alberch in the mid 1980s, and regarded as very coherent and promising in today’s evolutionary developmental biology.

More links in the Publications page.

Venice Workshop on Explaining Development

9-10 September 2014
Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti
Palazzo Loredan – Venezia
A workshop organized by Alessandro Minelli (University of Padova and Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti) and Thomas Pradeu (Paris-Sorbonne University and Institut universitaire de France)

What is development, and how should it be explained? Conceptual issues play an important role in today’s developmental biology (e.g., concerning plasticity and robustness, the periodization of development, etc.) An important, related question is to determine whether developmental biology offers theories. In a volume published by OUP in 2014 and edited by Minelli and Pradeu (Towards a theory of development), prominent biologists and philosophers have examined this question. This exploration of the theoretical aspects of developmental biology has now naturally led us to a broader and perhaps even more fundamental question, that of the explanation(s) of development.

Attendance to the workshop will be open
and free to all interested people.

Active participation to the discussion will be welcome.
Please inform the organizers of your intention to attend by sending a message to alessandro.minelli@unipd.it
not later than August 31, 2014.


9 September 2014

ALESSANDRO MINELLI & THOMAS PRADEU – Welcome and introductory remarks

Explaining what? – Putting development in context

GIUSEPPE FUSCO – Development in the context of the life cycle

JAMES R. GRIESEMER – Periodization of development

Coffee break

Explaining what? – Unconventional developmental systems

ALESSANDRO MINELLI – The development of the fruit, the seed, the moss and other chimaeric systems

ALEXANDER V. ERESKOVSKY – Problems and insights from sponge developmental biology

What is the respective role of descriptions, explanations and predictions in developmental biology?

THOMAS PRADEU – Description, explanation, and prediction in developmental biology

LUCIE LAPLANE – Contrasting notions of theory and their relevance for developmental biology

Coffee break


Plenary discussion I – The problem agenda(s)

10 September 2014

On the causality of development
WALLACE ARTHUR – Topology of causal links in development

JOHANNES JAEGER – The role of dynamical systems theory in a mechanistic theory of development

Coffee break

GERD B. MÜLLER – Do theories of evolution affect theories of development?

What does it exactly mean to give an explanation of development?

ALAN C. LOVE – The concept of potentiality in developmental reasoning

MICHEL VERVOORT – The importance to compare convergent developmental processes in trying to establish some principles of development

Coffee break

Plenary discussion II – Connections and broader issues

What next? General discussion on research, meetings and editorial plans



Voglia di Evoluzione Series

In academic year 2011-2012 Emanuele Serrelli is advisor and chair of the conference series “Voglia di evoluzione” organized by student representatives in the Department of Biology, University of Milan. The series aims to deepen some “hot” topics in contemporary evolutionary biology (EvoDevo, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetics) that are nonetheless rarely explained in normal biology curricula. Authoritative researchers are invited to present their researches and discuss with students. An original aspect is the coupling of animal and plant models, usually confined to being examples of either one or the other phenomenon.


  • Evo-Devo, or evolutionary developmental biology, has been presented by Dott. Giuseppe Fusco and Prof. Alessandro Minelli (Università degli Studi di Padova) and Dott. Fabio Fornara dell’Università degli Studi di Milano (November 23, 2011). Video available on Youtube.
  • Phenotypic plasticity, or the property of a genotype to give rise to different phenotypes in varying environmental conditions, has been exposed by Dott. Walter Salzburger (University of Basilea) and Dott. Marco Caccianiga (Università degli Studi di Milano) (January 26, 2012). Video available on Youtube.
  • Epigenetics or “weak inheritance” (or, the heritability of phenotypic modifications) has been presented by Prof. Marcello Buiatti (Università degli Studi di Firenze) (April 17, 2012).

The series ended with a roundtable with Prof. Marco Ferraguti (Università degli Studi di Milano), Prof.ssa Eva Jablonka (University of Tel Aviv) and Prof. Telmo Pievani (Università degli Studi Milano-Bicocca) (May 17, 2012) on “Evolution in 4 dimensions” and the extension of the Modern Synthesis. Article and video on Pikaia.

View on Academia.