Ontogeny and Phylogeny (book)

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

Ontogeny and Phylogeny is a 1977 book on evolution by Stephen Jay Gould, in which the author explores the relationship between embryonic development (ontogeny) and biological evolution (phylogeny).


Ontogeny and Phylogeny is Gould's first technical book. He wrote that Ernst Mayr had suggested in passing that he write a book on development. Gould stated he "only began it as a practice run to learn the style of lengthy exposition before embarking on my magnum opus about macroevolution."[1] This later work was published in 2002 as The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

The first half of the book explores Ernst Haeckel's biogenetic law (recapitulation)—the largely discredited idea that embryonic developmental stages replay the evolutionary transitions of adult forms of an organism's past descendants—and how this idea influenced thinking in 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).

Evolutionary biologists Kenneth McNamara and Michael McKinney stated 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, MA: Belknap 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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