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Eble Gunther J. | Fellow Postdoctoral
2002-01-01 - 2002-12-31 | Research area: EvoDevo
The Evolution of Form
The Evolution of Form is a central subject of macroevolutionary studies, one which is also shared with Evolutionary Developmental Biology. Macroevolutionists attempt to understand form by directly studying its differential representation over evolutionary time and interpreting it in mechanistic terms. Evolutionary developmental biologists, in turn, strive to understand form by tracking its differential manifestation over ontogenetic time and interpreting it in evolutionary terms. A companionship of these disciplines in an expanded evolutionary paradigm seems reasonable, since both have validated novel approaches to evolution. Such companionship is still poorly articulated, however, because of differences in styles of hierarchical thinking, in pattern and process phenomenology, and in ontological premises. As a concern for the nature and evolution of form provides a crucial link between these disciplines, the challenge is to better understand form in its conceptual, theoretical, and empirical manifestations in time and space, and to better integrate multiple sources of insight on variational and sorting tendencies of phenotypic space. Form, quantitatively described, mechanistically dissected, and mapped in the fullness of evolutionary time, can through this metadisciplinary bond be more meaningfully reinserted in the conceptual landscape of modern evolutionary biology. This step, which resonates with recent advances in theoretical biology, can contribute significantly to the emergence of a theoretical discourse capable of unifying microevolution, macroevolution, and evolutionary developmental biology. To examine these issues, a book was designed: "The Evolution of Form." A proposal is being negotiated with Princeton University Press. The aims of the book are: - an appraisal of conceptual, heuristic, and historical aspects of form and form change, across levels of organization, spatial and temporal scales, and disciplinary boundaries; - a synthetic account of form in Macroevolution and Evolutionary Developmental Biology, with exploration of their link as an organizing axis for an expanded evolutionary theory; - an examination of the explanatory roles of form and of the empirical and methodological challenges that future studies of form must face; - an outline of the place of form and related concepts in multidisciplinary research.