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Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (DEDB) - Spring 2000 Newsletter

Message from the Chair

Rudolf Raff

The SICB, whose society name declares its integrative aims, has created a new division for the study of evolution and development. This new discipline recognizes that addressing the central problem of macroevolution requires that we understand how developmental processes evolve, and how they affect the course of evolution. Evo/devo integrates evolutionary biology, developmental biology, paleontology, life history and molecular genetics in novel ways.

The society has fostered evo/devo over the past few years in its symposia, and now through the creation of a new division. The initiative to form the division came from Billie Swalla, Scott Gilbert and Mark Martindale in 1999. Their hard work deserves all our thanks. The new division held its organizational meeting at the 2000 SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, with an excellent and enthusiastic turnout. The officers are Rudy Raff, chair; Jim Hanken, secretary; Mark Martindale, program officer; and Patricia Hernandez, student/postdoc representative. A set of bylaws was adopted. In order to guarantee continuity and to help new officers learn the ropes, the first division election will be held in the spring of 2000. The chair and secretary positions are up for election. Rudy and Jim will hold office at the 2001 meeting, and the new officers will serve as chair- and secretary-elect. They will assume office at the 2002 meeting.

The new division got off to a lively start through two exciting symposia co-sponsored with DDCB, DSEB, DICI and ISIRD, and through several outstanding sessions of contributed papers and poster sessions on evo/devo topics. The symposium, "Hox clusters and evolution of morphology," was organized by Billie Swalla and Jeff Ram. The symposium showed how the field has been vastly expanding the characterization of Hox genes and their functions into non-model organisms and into phyla with distinctly different body plans from the better studied insects and mammals. The second symposium celebrating evo/devo, "Evolutionary developmental biology: paradigms, problems and prospects," was organized by Richard Burian, Scott Gilbert, Paula Mabee and Billie Swalla. The symposium provided a historical perspective for the discipline and examined its major concepts and directions—an important enterprise for a new discipline. The rich focus of SICB on evo/devo and the Hox symposium were both reported in Nature (Jan. 13) and Science (Jan. 28). Evo/devo has taken a big step in its establishment as a major discipline.

Finally, I'd like to invite suggestions from members regarding divisional initiatives and ways to increase membership. I'd also like to remind everyone that membership provides an opportunity for reduced personal subscription rates to the journal Evolution & Development, which is sponsored by SICB. Don't miss out.

Message from the Program Officer

Mark Q. Martindale

Greetings evo/devo-ists! Many thanks to those of you who attended (and managed to avoid or survive the flu season) the first annual meeting of the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (DEDB). Our first meeting was highlighted by two fantastic symposia (and a bunch of bottles of bubbly, compliments of Billie Swalla--way to go Billie!). The first, co-sponsored with the Division of Developmental and Cell Biology, was entitled "Hox Genes and the Evolution of Morphology," and the second was "Evolutionary Developmental Biology: Problems, Paradigms, and Prospects." Both featured an outstanding slate of internationally recognized speakers. Jeff Ram, Billie Swalla, Scott Gilbert, Richard Burian and Paula Mabee all deserve an extra round of applause for doing such a terrific job organizing the Atlanta meetings. We also send our gratitude to SICB President Martin Feder and Past President Alan Kohn for supporting our venture so enthusiastically. The symposia were very well received and we appreciate the attention from both the society and the media on our history-making endeavor.

Next year's meeting is in Chicago. There are several exciting symposia planned, including one by DEDB's Eduardo Rosa-Molinar and Ann Burke, entitled, "Starting with Fins: Parallelism in the Evolution of Limbs and Genitalia." As always, there will be contributed papers and poster sessions to communicate all the exciting things going on in your labs. This is an excellent opportunity for both seasoned veterans and enthusiastic students to participate in one of the most exciting fields in biology. While it already is too late to get new symposia on the agenda for Chicago, it is not too early to begin planning for the year after. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk about future possibilities.

At this time, I also would like to encourage you to spread word of our new division to friends, students and postdocs, and suggest that they join SICB. Dues are actually going down, and the larger our constituency, the easier it will be to focus attention on evo/devo. SICB is a perfect place to pace the field with our diverse and integrative membership, and we would like our annual meeting to be the showcase for the best and brightest work. Evolution and Development (Blackwell Science), a new journal edited by DEDB Chair Rudy Raff, is sponsored by SICB and is the perfect vehicle for sharing our work with the rest of the world. These are exciting times, and I already am looking forward to our next meeting in Chicago. Hope to see you there!


Message from the Secretary

James Hanken

Spring Election of New DEDB Officers

As Rudy Raff described in his chair's message above, the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology must elect our next chair and secretary in this spring's SICB elections. The Nominating Committee (Michael Donoghue, John Finnerty and Patricia Hernandez, chair) has assembled a slate comprising two excellent candidates for each post; a short biographical sketch for each candidate follows. Please read the bios and then vote via electronic ballot, following instructions provided after the bios. Thanks again to the Nominating Committee for discharging their duties both wisely and efficiently.

What Do You Think of the Newsletter?

The society invites comments on the newsletter from the entire SICB membership. Do you like the electronic format, or would you prefer to have a paper copy mailed to your door? If the latter, do you just want to hear about DEDB, or would you also like to receive information regarding other divisions? Finally, is anyone reading it? Please direct all comments, however small or informal, to me, and I'll send them along to the powers at be.

Message from the Student/Postdoc Representative

Patricia Hernandez

I would like to take a moment to introduce myself as the new DEDB representative to the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee. I have been an active member of SICB for many years and have always felt supported as a student. Now that I am a postdoc, it is my hope that I will be able to give back to the society by helping student members and fellow postdocs with their concerns. This society has a long tradition of supporting student participation at annual meetings, and I urge all students to take advantage of this opportunity. For instance, for just a small time commitment (e.g., projecting slides during the meeting), the society often covers costs of room and board while at the meeting. Students should also be aware that the grants-in-aid-of-research program is another way the society actively supports the development of young scientists.

Commitment to student participation at the annual meeting is an important reason for you to encourage your peers to join this new division. The opportunity to be a speaker at an international meeting is not one afforded to most students attending other developmental biology meetings. Moreover, while most meetings today are becoming increasingly specialized, the interdivisional symposia at SICB allow for both an increased level of interaction and crossing of disciplines. Founded in this tradition, our new division has already shown a strong commitment to this interdisciplinary approach with two great symposia at the Atlanta meeting.

If you have any questions or comments, I would be happy to hear from you.

Evolution & Development: Call for Papers

Evolution & Development was launched last year to promote the rapid growth in research at the interface of evolutionary and developmental biology. The journal is primarily devoted to the publication of original research papers, but we also publish review articles, forum discussion articles and perspectives. The overall aim is to further the growing evo/devo synthesis. The journal is sponsored by SICB.

We welcome papers from all disciplines that make a direct contribution to our understanding of evo/devo: developmental biology, paleontology, population biology, molecular biology, systematics and life history. Papers are reviewed rapidly.

For more information about the journal and instructions to authors, see our Web page

If you would like to inquire about submission of a manuscript, please send a message to Rudolf A. Raff at <rraff@sunflower.bio.indiana.edu>.

Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology Election

Candidates for DEDB Chair

Richard Elinson

Current position: Professor of Zoology, University of Toronto, but moving this summer to Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Education: B.A., 1967, Johns Hopkins University; Ph.D., 1970, Yale University.

Professional experience: Editorial Board, Roux's Archives, 1989-96; Board of Editors, Development Genes and Evolution, 1996-present; Associate Editor, Journal of Experimental Zoology, 1994-present; Grant Selection Committee (Cell Biology), NSERC, Canada, 1994-97.

Other memberships: Society for Developmental Biology (SDB); Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR).

Research interests: Specification of the dorsal axis in frog embryos; direct development in frogs--developmental mechanisms underlying the deletion of the tadpole in Eleutherodactylus coqui; change in egg size--impact on development and implications for evolution.

Goals statement: Having given my first scientific paper at a 1970 meeting of the American Society of Zoologists (ASZ), I am happy to see SICB in general and the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology in particular rise from the ashes of ASZ. The Atlanta meeting showed that there is more to developmental biology than enhancer elements and protein domains. There is the organization of whole organisms to consider and the relationships among those organisms. The new field of evo/devo has found a natural home in SICB, with the confluence of scientists working on many different organisms from many different points of view. I want to see the evo/devo division flourish in this setting. My program would include: 1) toasting all those who made important contributions to the establishment of this division, perhaps from "set-aside" funds; 2) commissioning Scott Gilbert, Brian Hall and other undiscovered talents to write song and verse extolling, in the tradition of Walter Garstang, evo/devo and its new division; 3) encouraging interactions with the other SICB divisions through joint symposia and paper sessions, and 4) making the SICB meeting the place to be if you are interested in evo/devo.

Günter P. Wagner

Current position: Professor and Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University.

Education: Ph.D. (Zoology), 1979, University of Vienna.

Professional experience: Editor in Chief, Section of Molecular and Developmental Evolution, Journal of Experimental Zoology, since 1999; Editorial board memberships: Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 1987-92, Evolution and Cognition, 1990--, Yale Press, 1992-95, Evolution, 1994-97, Theory in Biosciences, 1998--, Journal of Theoretical Biology, 1998--, Evolution and Development, 1999--.

SICB activities: I became a member of SICB in 1999 specifically because of the new Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology. Before that I was an enthusiastic participant in several SICB symposia.

Other memberships: AAAS, Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Systematic Biologists, European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

Research interests: I want to understand the evolution of complex characters, both at the level of population genetic theory of complex adaptations as well as at the level of the molecular and developmental mechanisms.

Goals statement: I think that the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology has a special responsibility to serve as a forum for researchers from all disciplines that share excitement about the prospects for evolutionary developmental biology. The division is the first formal union of researchers in the field and will have to play a pivotal role in the process of defining the identity of the discipline. This process can only succeed if the division is able to attract the knowledge and talent of developmental biologists, evolutionary geneticists, morphologists, systematists and paleontologists. I strongly believe that each group makes an essential contribution to the developmental evolutionary synthesis. To make the integration of these contributions possible, the division should be perceived as a place where researchers from different backgrounds can communicate without facing disciplinary chauvinism. SICB has a strong tradition in this regard, and I plan to draw on its accumulated organizational wisdom to reach this goal.

Candidates for DEDB Secretary

Frietson Galis

Current position: Assistant professor, Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Education: Ph.D., Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Professional experience: Postdoctoral research at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, 1991-97; Fulbright junior scholarship at Harvard University, 1993; assistant professor, Leiden University, 1997--; Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Experimental Zoology: Molecular and Developmental Evolution; and Member, Scientific Program Committee, Sixth International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM-6).

Other memberships: International Society for Vertebrate Morphology, Society for Behavioral Biology.

Research interests: My research interests focus on innovations and mechanisms that facilitate evolutionary changes and on the constraining effect of internal selection on evolutionary changes (i.e., selection caused by characteristics of the developmental system). One of my projects is on the conservation of the number of cervical vertebrae in mammals. In this project I am trying to link developmental biology, genetics and functional morphology to understand the strong internal selection that must have operated in preventing changes in response to external selection pressures. A second project concerns the role of phenotypic plasticity and genetic assimilation in the process of adaptation and evolutionary change of a cichlid fish. My third project is on the evolution of structural novelties in the pharyngeal jaw apparatus of cichlid fishes, and its role in adaptive radiation. Furthermore I am writing a book on Development, Functional Morphology and Evolution for the University of California Press.

Goal statement: I am very pleased with the founding of the new Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology as an important meeting ground for researchers in the field. I would sincerely like to contribute to the success of the division by serving as its secretary. One idea is to improve communication among the members of the division, for instance by expanding the Web site.

Ken Halanych

Current position: Assistant Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Adjunct Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory.

Education: Ph.D., 1994, University of Texas at Austin; B.S., 1988, Wake Forest University.

Professional experience: Postdoctoral fellow, Rutgers University, (molecular evolution and systematics of marine invertebrates); postdoctoral fellow, University of Pretoria, South Africa (molecular phylogenetics and evolution of lagomorphs); 1997 Mid-Atlantic Ridge Oceanographic Cruise; 1998 Southern Eastern Pacific Rise Oceanographic Cruise; additional field experience at Friday Harbor Laboratories, Bermuda Biological Station. Teaching experience at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; teaching assistant or assistant instructor, University of Texas, 1988-1993.

SICB activities: Participant in symposium, "Hox gene and morphological evolution," Atlanta, 2000; co-organizer of symposium, "Evolutionary relationships of metazoan phyla," Boston, 1998; DIZ best student paper committee, 1998; session co-chair, 1990; local organization committee, San Antonio, 1990.

Other memberships: Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution; Society of Systematic Biologists; American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Research interests: Evolutionary origins and relationships of major metazoan lineages (including body plan origins and evolution); molecular systematics and phylogenetic theory, invertebrate organismal evolution (especially lophophorates), diversification of hydrothermal vent fauna (especially pogonophorans), lagomorph (rabbits and pikas) phylogenetics.

Goals statement: My primary objective during my tenure as secretary would be to promote more interaction between evolutionary and developmental biologists. The field of evo/devo is largely dominated by people trained as developmental biologists. While most of these researchers have done an excellent job of incorporating evolutionary theory with developmental data, I feel that a more complete synthesis could be achieved by 1) making evolutionary biologists more aware the exciting work on developmental mechanisms, and 2) providing developmental biologists with easier access to the latest and most appropriate tools and theory in evolutionary biology.