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Evolution. 2013 Feb;67(2):305-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01802.x. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.


Organismal development and evolution are complex, multifaceted processes that depend intimately on context. They are subject to environmental influences, chance appearance and fixation of mutations, and numerous other idiosyncrasies. Genomics is detailing the molecular signature of effects of these mechanisms on phenotypes, but because numerous distinct evolutionary explanations can produce a given genomic pattern, the molecular details, rather than elucidating process, typically distract from explanatory insight and contribute little to predictive capability. While genomic research has burgeoned, direct study of evolutionary and developmental processes has lagged. We advocate for reinvigoration of direct study of process, along with refocusing of attention on questions of broad biological import, as more productive of urgently needed insights, which genomic approaches are not providing.

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