From Gene Networks to Organismal Systems
2nd Summer School on Evolutionary Developmental Biology
Sep 19 to Sep 22, 2011Venezia, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
Organized by: Alessandro Minelli, Michael Akam, Gerd B. Müller and Giuseppe Fusco
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Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) faces a number of significant theoretical and empirical challenges, as it is moving beyond qualitative comparative analyses of gene expression and key regulatory factors, and begins to focus on quantitative, systems-level studies of evolving developmental processes. This course will expose its participants to these challenges, with the aim of providing PhD students and post-docs with a basic conceptual and methodological toolkit to approach current evo-devo questions.
The course is centered around the complex relationship between genotype and phenotype. It will start with an introduction on the history and current status of evo-devo, and an outline of an extended synthesis for evolutionary biology. We will introduce problems of phylogenetics, and the choice of model organisms as a necessary practical prerequisite for any investigation into evo-devo. We will then cover different approaches to the study of evolution at the phenotypic level: comparative embryology/morphology, the principles of cis-regulatory evolution and its consequences on organismic form, the role of physical factors as well as cell interaction and gene networks in constraining and shaping evolutionary processes, and the influence of the environment. This will include discussions of central concepts such as evolvability, robustness, and phenotypic plasticity and their respective roles in evolution.