Ontogeny and Phylogeny (book)

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Ontogeny and Phylogeny
Author Stephen Jay Gould
Country United States
Language English
Subject Ontogeny, phylogeny
Publisher Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Publication date
Pages 501
ISBN 0674639405
LC Class QH371 .G68

Ontogeny and Phylogeny is Stephen Jay Gould's first technical book, published in 1977 by Belknap, a division of Harvard University Press. Gould wrote that Ernst Mayr suggested in passing that he write the book, but that Gould "only began it as a practice run to learn the style of lengthy exposition before embarking on my magnum opus about macroevolution."[1] This became The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, published in 2002.


Ontogeny and Phylogeny explores the relationship between embryonic development (ontogeny) and biological evolution (phylogeny). The book also discusses the role recapitulationErnst Haeckel's discredited idea that embryonic developmental stages replay the evolutionary transitions of adult forms of an organism's past descendants—had on biology, theology, and psychology. The second half of the book details how modern concepts such as heterochrony (changes in developmental timing) and neoteny (the retardation of developmental expression or growth rates) have in influencing macroevolution (major evolutionary transitions).

It has been said that of all the books that Gould wrote in his career, "the one with the most impact is probably Ontogeny and Phylogeny ... to say that this work is a hallmark in this area of evolutionary theory would be an understatement. It proved to be the catalyst for much of the future work in the field, and to a large degree was the inspiration for the modern field of 'evolutionary developmental biology'. Gould's hope was to show that the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny is fundamental to evolution, and at its heart is a simple premise—that variations in the timing and rate of development provide the raw material upon which natural selection can operate."[2]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Gould, S.J. (1977). Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. vii–viii. ISBN 0-674-63940-5. . Also ISBN 0-674-63941-3 (paperback)
  2. ^ McNamara, K.J., & McKinney, M.L. (2005). "Heterochrony, disparity and macroevolution". In Vrba, E., & Eldredge, N. Macroevolution: Diversity, Disparity, Contingency. Essays in Honor of Stephen Jay Gould. Lawrence, Kansas: The Paleontological Society. pp. 17–26. ISBN 1-891276-49-2. ISSN 0094-8373. 

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