Russian comparative embryology takes form: a conceptual metamorphosis toward “evo‐devo”

  title={Russian comparative embryology takes form: a conceptual metamorphosis toward “evo‐devo”},
  author={Alexander T Mikhailov},
  journal={Evolution \& Development},
This essay recapitulates major paths followed by the Russian tradition of what we refer to today as evolutionary developmental biology (“evo‐devo”). The article addresses several questions regarding the conceptual history of evolutionary embryological thought in its particularly Russian perspective: (1) the assertion by the St. Petersburg academician Wolff regarding the possible connections between environmental modifications during morphogenesis and the “transformation” of species, (2) the… 
Scientific traditions in conflict: the Rusconi–von Baer controversy on the embryology of frogs and the development of the cell theory
The theoretical reasons behind the divergent interpretations of cleavage and the whole embryonic development are analyzed and their implications for the development of the cell theory and the conceptions of life are focused on.
Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) and evolution.
  • S. Brauckmann
  • Biology
    The International journal of developmental biology
  • 2012
A new interpretation of Baer's ideas about evolution is offered showing that he believed in the transformation of species and announced such views publicly.
Revisiting the past in view of the future
A number of writings which revisit the Russian comparative embryology of the nineteenth century in the light of the modern evolutionary developmental biology (Evo‐Devo) may contribute to spread the notion that the concept of the chordates was introduced by the Russian embryologist Alexander O. Kowalevsky.
The First Experiments on Ascidian and Sea Urchin Eggs Fertilization
In 1845 Karl Ernst von Baer made the first experiments on artificial fertilization of ascidian and sea urchin eggs in Cornigliano near Genoa (Italy), and his observations led to the conclusion that all nuclei of larval and adult tissues are derived from the nucleus of the fertilized egg.
Exploring the past through the present
The goal of the short account on Russian comparative embryology was not to recapitulate the past, as important as that may be, but to trace underlying conceptual patterns that continued to shape evolutionary embryology research in Russia from the mid‐nineteenth to mid‐twentieth century.
On the origins of anticipation as an evolutionary framework: functional systems perspective
In the field of neuroscience, the theory of functional systems may potentially facilitate future studies at the intersection of learning, development and evolution by representing an integrative approach to the problem of anticipation.


Kowalevsky, comparative evolutionary embryology, and the intellectual lineage of evo-devo.
  • R. Raff, A. Love
  • Biology
    Journal of experimental zoology. Part B, Molecular and developmental evolution
  • 2004
It is concluded that keeping research questions rather than experimental capabilities at the forefront of Evo-devo may be an antidote to any repeat of the stagnation experienced by the first group of evolutionary developmental biologists over one hundred years ago.
Evolutionary developmental biology: its concepts and history with a focus on Russian and German contributions
This review gives an overview of the history of EvoDevo, especially the tradition emanating from Haeckel and other comparative embryologists and morphologists, and points out the important parallels between Schmalhausen's ideas (stabilizing selection, autonomization) and C. Waddington’s (canalization, genetic assimilation).
Evolution of developmental decisions and morphogenesis: the view from two camps.
  • R. Raff
  • Biology
    Development (Cambridge, England). Supplement
  • 1992
Analysis of the complementary uses of the resulting data in the two fields as they grope for accommodation shows that what have been thought to be constrained mechanisms of axial determination, cell lineage patterning, and gastrulation in fact evolve readily and provide the means for the rapid evolution of development.
The morphogenesis of evolutionary developmental biology.
  • S. Gilbert
  • Biology
    The International journal of developmental biology
  • 2003
This essay will trace one of the major pathways, that from evolutionary embryology to Evo-Devo and it will show the interactions of this pathway with two other sources ofevolutionary developmental biology: ecological developmental biology and medical developmental biology.
Consequences of the Spemann-Mangold organizer concept for embryological research in Russia: personal impressions.
This paper provides a framework for, and overvalue of, the contributions of Russian biologists to the problem of embryonic induction, and some of the examples of neural-inducing agents detected in embryonic tissues and the new questions raised by the progress made in the analysis of the Spemann-Mangold organizer.
From eggs to fossils: epigenesis and transformation of species in Pander's biology.
Christian Heinrich Pander embodies the very close link that existed between the triumph of epigenesis and the expansion of transformist theories in the early 19th century.
On some historical and theoretical foundations of the concept of chordates
The concept of chordates arose from the alliance between embryology and evolution in the second half of the nineteenth century, as a result of a theoretical elaboration on Kowalevsky’s discoveries
From development to evolution: the re-establishment of the "Alexander Kowalevsky Medal".
The Saint Petersburg Society of Naturalists has reinstated the Alexander O. Kowalevsky Medal, the Russian comparative embryologist whose studies on amphioxus, tunicates and germ layer homologies pioneered evolutionary embryology and confirmed the evolutionary continuity between invertebrates and vertebrates.
The Shape of Life: Genes, Development, and the Evolution of Animal Form
In "The Shape of Life", Raff analyzes the rise of this experimental discipline and lays out research questions, hypotheses and approaches to guide its development.
The Road from Haeckel: The Jena Tradition in Evolutionary Morphology and the Origins of “Evo-Devo”
How this earlier research tradition in evolutionary morphology grappled with similar questions to those now on the agenda is drawn attention, albeit from sometimes quite differentperspectives.