Accounting for the evolutionary origins of morphological novelty is one of the core challenges of contemporary evolutionary biology. A successful explanatory framework requires the integration of different biological disciplines, but the relationships between developmental biology and standard evolutionary biology remain contested. There is also disagreement about how to define the concept of evolutionary novelty. These issues were the subjects of a workshop held in November 2009 at the University of Alberta. We report on the discussion and results of this workshop, addressing questions about (i) how to define evolutionary novelty and understand its significance, (ii) how to interpret evolutionary developmental biology as a synthesis and its relation to neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, and (iii) how to integrate disparate biological approaches in general.
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sessions of the day and a half workshop. Each session opened with brief overviews that focused attention on concrete examples or issues, such as novelties in the vertebrate skeleton (e.g., neural crest cells) or the complementarity of population genetic explanations and developmental explanations. All participants found the discussion stimulating and fruitful, and the intellectual momentum will not be lost. The November 2009 workshop was only the first step in an ongoing collaboration, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Future workshops are planned (the next one in November 2010 at McGill University), and conference symposia and joint publications are in preparation.
Acknowledgements We thank the participants of the workshop ‘Integrating Different Biological Approaches’ (November 13–15, 2009, University of Alberta) for their discussion contributions, which formed the basis of this paper. Ingo Brigandt’s work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Standard Research Grant 410-2008-0400). Alan Love’s work is supported by the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship at the University of Minnesota.
- Evolutionary developmental biology
- Evolutionary innovation
- Evolutionary novelty