Organogenesis in deep time: A problem in genomics, development, and paleontology

Joyce Pieretti, Andrew R. Gehrke, Igor Schneider, Noritaka Adachi, Tetsuya Nakamura, Neil H. Shubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The fossil record is a unique repository of information on major morphological transitions. Increasingly, developmental, embryological, and functional genomic approaches have also conspired to reveal evolutionary trajectory of phenotypic shifts. Here, we use the vertebrate appendage to demonstrate how these disciplines can mutually reinforce each other to facilitate the generation and testing of hypotheses of morphological evolution. We discuss classical theories on the origins of paired fins, recent data on regulatory modulations of fish fins and tetrapod limbs, and case studies exploring the mechanisms of digit loss in tetrapods. We envision an era of research in which the deep history of morphological evolution can be revealed by integrating fossils of transitional forms with direct experimentation in the laboratory via genome manipulation, thereby shedding light on the relationship between genes, developmental processes, and the evolving phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4871-4876
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 21 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Development
  • Evolution
  • Fossil record
  • Genomics
  • Limb


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