Arkhat Abzhanov
Arkhat Abzhanov

History of Ideas from D’Arcy Thompson to Developmental Genetics

In 1917, D’Arcy Thompson in his book On Growth and Form claimed that living organisms and their parts should be viewed as geometric shapes described by mathematical principles. He also suggested that “laws of growth” could explain the making of any particular biological form, and that changes in development, rather than natural selection, explain the diversity of biological shapes. This put him at odds with mainstream Darwinism, in which primarily environmental factors produce variation. We can now demonstrate that developmental processes indeed provide important, often pivotal, directives and constraints for the generation of biodiversity.

Dr Arkhat Abzhanov is a Reader in Evolution and Developmental Genetics at Imperial College London and Researcher at the Natural History Museum in London. He is interested in a variety of topics related to the vertebrate craniofacial (head) development, craniofacial genetic conditions in humans and cranial evolution. The animals he studies range from the laboratory “model” species, such as chicken embryos and mouse mutants, to the “non-model” species from the wild, such Darwin’s Finches, crocodilians and bats.

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