Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Evolution and Development of the Vertebrate Head
Understanding vertebrate cranial development and evolution is one of the central challenges in our efforts to explain animal diversity. The vertebrate head is one of the most genetically complex and rapidly evolving structures in multicellular organisms.
Recent major breakthroughs have been reported by scholars studying craniofacial development in laboratory animals, such as mouse and chicken embryos, and by evolutionary biologists probing modifications and innovations that have occurred during head evolution from fishes to humans. Unfortunately, these researchers rarely cross paths as developmental geneticists and evolutionary biologists inhabit largely parallel academic universes.
We believe that significant intellectual advances could be made by providing a bridge between the leaders of these two rapidly advancing fields. The seminar will include several topics of broad interest, such as the genetic and developmental causes of natural variation, as well as evolutionary perspectives on cranial morphology ranging from modeling to functional approaches.
Our proposal includes presentations on specific but diverse biological examples, followed by synthetic attempts to elucidate both proximate and ultimate causes for craniofacial variation. Such dialogue will undoubtedly help us to understand better the evolution of cranial structures in vertebrates, including humans, and may provide important insights for biomedical research on mechanisms of human craniofacial conditions as well as improvements in tissue engineering.