Heterochrony revisited: the evolution of developmental sequences

by Kathleen K Smith
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society ()


The concept of heterochrony is a persistent component of discussions about the way that evolution and development interact. Since the late 1970s heterochrony has been defined largely as developmental changes in the relationship of size and shape. This approach to heterochrony, here termed growth heterochrony, is limited in the way it can analyse change in the relative timing of developmental events in a number of respects. In particular, analytical techniques do not readily allow the study of changes in developmental events not characterized by size and shape parameters, or of many kinds of events in many taxa. I discuss here an alternative approach to heterochrony, termed sequence heterochrony, in which a developmental trajectory is conceptualized as a series of discrete events. Heterochrony is demonstrated when the sequence position of an event changes relative to other events in that sequence. I summarize several analytical techniques that allow the investigation of sequence heterochrony in phylogenetic contexts and also quantitatively. Finally, several examples of how this approach may be used to test hypotheses on the way development evolves are summarized.

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