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Plant Cell. 2011 Apr;23(4):1194-207. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.084244. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

Charles Darwin and the origins of plant evolutionary developmental biology.

Author information

1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA. ned@oeb.harvard.edu

Abstract

Much has been written of the early history of comparative embryology and its influence on the emergence of an evolutionary developmental perspective. However, this literature, which dates back nearly a century, has been focused on metazoans, without acknowledgment of the contributions of comparative plant morphologists to the creation of a developmental view of biodiversity. We trace the origin of comparative plant developmental morphology from its inception in the eighteenth century works of Wolff and Goethe, through the mid nineteenth century discoveries of the general principles of leaf and floral organ morphogenesis. Much like the stimulus that von Baer provided as a nonevolutionary comparative embryologist to the creation of an evolutionary developmental view of animals, the comparative developmental studies of plant morphologists were the basis for the first articulation of the concept that plant (namely floral) evolution results from successive modifications of ontogeny. Perhaps most surprisingly, we show that the first person to carefully read and internalize the remarkable advances in the understanding of plant morphogenesis in the 1840s and 1850s is none other than Charles Darwin, whose notebooks, correspondence, and (then) unpublished manuscripts clearly demonstrate that he had discovered the developmental basis for the evolutionary transformation of plant form.

PMID:
21515816
PMCID:
PMC3101565
DOI:
10.1105/tpc.111.084244
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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