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The International Journal of Developmental Biology
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 53  |  Issue: 8  |  Page No.: 1205 - 1217

A history of Evo-Devo research in Spain

Jaume Baguna    

Abstract: A history of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Evo-Devo in short) in Spain is presented. From an almost total lack of research and tradition in Embryology, Genetics and Evolution throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century, evolution and development was first bridged in the 1970-80s by the structuralist approach of Pere Alberch and by important side-studies from the Madrid School of Developmental Genetics. A second stage was set in the early 1990s when a few scattered labs start to address problems which arose abroad by major advances in molecular phylogenetics and comparative gene expression patterns in selected animal models. The principal contributions included the nature and molecular features of the first bilaterians and the first chordates, the patterning of the vertebrate brain and limbs, and insect appendages and, on a finer scale, the roles of specific gene and gene families in vertebrate neural crest origin and in the patterning of sensory elements in the Drosophila species. Because a common genetic toolkit exists from sponges to man, current Evo-Devo research is taking a dual approach. On a "macroevolutionary" scale, it asks how and when developmental genes were assembled, at key points in the phylogenetic scale, into interacting functional networks to determine regional and tissue specific identities. On a "microevolutionary" scale, it analyzes how changes in the regulatory and codifying regions of specific genes correlate with specific morphological changes and how they could spread in natural populations. Given the paucity of such studies in current Spanish labs, a call is made to foster them.

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