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Developmental constraints are restrictions on the development of a particular phenotypic trait. These are physical, mechanical or structural limitations as well as irreversible commitments at key developmental stages that will limit or bias the phenotypes that selection can work with. Accordingly, developmental constraints (and not stabilizing selection) explain why certain traits, such as the structure of the tetrapod limb, are highly conserved in different evolving lineages with different adaptive pressures (e.g.  whale fins and frog legs).

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  1. Wilfried Allaerts (1991). On the Role of Gravity and Positional Information in Embryological Axis Formation and Tissue Compartmentalization. Acta Biotheoretica 39 (1).
    The idea that gravity affects dorso-ventral polarization in anouran development contrasts with the theories of self-organization through reaction-diffusion processes. As a result of a literature study we discuss the role of gravity in embryological axis formation and speculate on an influence of gravity on tissue compartmentalization. The involvement of compartmentalization in tissue homeostasis is discussed in the light of the recent progress in mammalian cell culture studies.
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  2. L. Almeida & J. Demongeot (forthcoming). Predictive Power of “A Minima” Models in Biology. Acta Biotheoretica.
    Abstract Many apparently complex mechanisms in biology, especially in embryology and molecular biology, can be explained easily by reasoning at the level of the “efficient cause” of the observed phenomenology: the mechanism can then be explained by a simple geometrical argument or a variational principle, leading to the solution of an optimization problem, for example, via the co-existence of a minimization and a maximization problem (a min–max principle). Passing from a microscopic (or cellular) level (optimal min–max solution of the simple (...)
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  3. Ron Amundson, Accounting For Vertebrate Limbs: From Owen's Homology To Novelty In Evo-Devo.
    This article reviews the recent reissuing of Richard Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs and its three novel, introductory essays. These essays make Owen’s 1849 text very accessible by discussing the historical context of his work and explaining how Owen’s ideas relate to his larger intellectual framework. In addition to the ways in which the essays point to Owen’s relevance for contemporary biology, I discuss how Owen’s unity of type theory and his homology claims about fins and limbs compare with (...)
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  4. Ron Amundson (1994). Two Concepts of Constraint: Adaptationism and the Challenge From Developmental Biology. Philosophy of Science 61 (4):556-578.
    The so-called "adaptationism" of mainstream evolutionary biology has been criticized from a variety of sources. One, which has received relatively little philosophical attention, is developmental biology. Developmental constraints are said to be neglected by adaptationists. This paper explores the divergent methodological and explanatory interests that separate mainstream evolutionary biology from its embryological and developmental critics. It will focus on the concept of constraint itself; even this central concept is understood differently by the two sides of the dispute.
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  5. Andre Ariew (1999). Innateness is Canalization: In Defense of a Developmental Account of Innateness. In , [Book Chapter] (in Press). MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. S19-S27.
    Lorenz proposed in his (1935) articulation of a theory of behavioral instincts that the objective of ethology is to distinguish behaviors that are “innate” from behaviors that are “learned” (or “acquired”). Lorenz’s motive was to open the investigation of certain “adaptive” behaviors to evolutionary theorizing. Accordingly, since innate behaviors are “genetic”, they are open to such investigation. By Lorenz’s light an innate/acquired or learned dichotomy rested on a familiar Darwinian distinction between genes and environments. Ever since Lorenz, ascriptions of innateness (...)
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  6. Tudor M. Baetu (2012). Mechanistic Constraints on Evolutionary Outcomes. Philosophy of Science 79 (2):276-294.
  7. Jonathan B. L. Bard (2008). Waddington's Legacy to Developmental and Theoretical Biology. Biological Theory 3 (3):188-197.
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  8. William Bechtel (ed.) (1986). Integrating Scientific Disciplines.
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  9. W. Berdel & G. Nass (1958). Über Die Bedeutung Des Auslesefaktors Im Rekapitulationsmechanismus der Phylogenetisch-Ontogenetischen Parallele. Acta Biotheoretica 12 (4).
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  10. James Blachowicz (2013). The Constraint Interpretation of Physical Emergence. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):21-40.
    I develop a variant of the constraint interpretation of the emergence of purely physical (non-biological) entities, focusing on the principle of the non-derivability of actual physical states from possible physical states (physical laws) alone. While this is a necessary condition for any account of emergence, it is not sufficient, for it becomes trivial if not extended to types of constraint that specifically constitute physical entities, namely, those that individuate and differentiate them. Because physical organizations with these features are in fact (...)
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  11. Ingo Brigandt (2015). From Developmental Constraint to Evolvability: How Concepts Figure in Explanation and Disciplinary Identity. In Alan C. Love (ed.), Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development. Springer. 305-325.
    The concept of developmental constraint was at the heart of developmental approaches to evolution of the 1980s. While this idea was widely used to criticize neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, critique does not yield an alternative framework that offers evolutionary explanations. In current Evo-devo the concept of constraint is of minor importance, whereas notions as evolvability are at the center of attention. The latter clearly defines an explanatory agenda for evolutionary research, so that one could view the historical shift from ‘developmental constraint’ (...)
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  12. Ingo Brigandt (2009). Accounting for Vertebrate Limbs: From Owen's Homology to Novelty in Evo-Devo. Philosophy and Theory in Biology 1 (20130604):e004.
    This article reviews the recent reissuing of Richard Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs and its three novel, introductory essays. These essays make Owen’s 1849 text very accessible by discussing the historical context of his work and explaining how Owen’s ideas relate to his larger intellectual framework. In addition to the ways in which the essays point to Owen’s relevance for contemporary biology, I discuss how Owen’s unity of type theory and his homology claims about fins and limbs compare with (...)
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  13. Ingo Brigandt (2007). Typology Now: Homology and Developmental Constraints Explain Evolvability. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 22 (5):709-725.
    By linking the concepts of homology and morphological organization to evolvability, this paper attempts to (1) bridge the gap between developmental and phylogenetic approaches to homology and to (2) show that developmental constraints and natural selection are compatible and in fact complementary. I conceive of a homologue as a unit of morphological evolvability, i.e., as a part of an organism that can exhibit heritable phenotypic variation independently of the organism’s other homologues. An account of homology therefore consists in explaining how (...)
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  14. Gérard Cusset (1991). Les modeLes Sigmoides En Biologie Vegetale. Acta Biotheoretica 39 (3-4).
    Observed biological growth curves generally are sigmoid in appearance. It is common practice to fit such data with either a Verhulst logistic or a Gompertz curve. This paper critically considers the conceptual bases underlying these descriptive models.The logistic model was developed by Verhulst to accommodate the common sense observation that populations cannot keep growing indefinitely. A justification for using the same equation to describe the growth of individuals, based on considerations from chemical kinetics (autocatalysis of a monomolecular reaction), was put (...)
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  15. Barbara L. Finlay, Richard B. Darlington & Nicholas Nicastro (2001). Author's Response: Developmental Structure in Brain Evolution. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2):298-304.
    First, we clarify the central nature of our argument: our attempt is to apportion variation in brain size between developmental constraint, system-specific change, and change, underlining the unexpectedly large role of developmental constraint, but making no case for exclusivity. We consider the special cases of unusual hypertrophy of single structures in single species, regressive nervous systems, and the unusually variable cerebellum raised by the commentators. We defend the description of the cortex (or any developmentally-constrained structure) as a potential spandrel, and (...)
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  16. Frietson Galis & Johan A. J. Metz (2003). Anti‐Cancer Selection as a Source of Developmental and Evolutionary Constraints. Bioessays 25 (11):1035-1039.
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  17. Claudia Harris & William Brown (1990). Developmental Constraints on Ethical Behavior in Business. Journal of Business Ethics 9 (11):855 - 862.
    Ethical behavior — the conscious attempt to act in accordance with an individually-owned morality — is the product of an advanced stage of the maturing process. Three models of ethical growth derived from research in human development are applied to issues of business ethics.
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  18. Horst Krist (2001). The Internalization of Physical Constraints From a Developmental Perspective. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (4):681-682.
    Shepard's internalization concept is defended against Hecht's criticisms. By ignoring both Shepard's evolutionary perspective and the fact that internalization does not preclude modularization, Hecht advances inconclusive evidence. Developmental research supports Shepard's conclusion that kinematic geometry may be more deeply internalized than physical dynamics. This research also suggests that the internalization concept should be broadened to include representations acquired during ontogeny. [Hecht; Shepard].
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  19. Paula Mabee (2010). A Multifaceted View of Evo-Devo. BioScience 60 (7):555-556.
  20. Anne Dambricourt Malassé (1995). Les Attracteurs Inedits de L'Hominisation. Acta Biotheoretica 43 (1-2).
    The recent discovery of a phenomenon of craniofacial growth, called craniofacial contraction, throws a new <span class='Hi'>light</span> on the process of hominization. The main interest of this discovery lies in a growth principle combining the different craniofacial units, that is to say, the neurocranium (neural skull), the chondrocranium (basal skull) and the splanchnocranium (visceral archs including the mandible). Until recent years, these different parts were considered as neighbouring element without any morphogenic or morphodynamic connection. But now, we know that the (...)
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  21. Lawrence E. Marks & Eric C. Odgaard (2005). Developmental Constraints on Theories of Synesthesia. In Robertson, C. L. & N. Sagiv (eds.), Synesthesia: Perspectives From Cognitive Neuroscience. Oxford University Press.
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  22. Trevor Pearce (2011). Evolution and Constraints on Variation: Variant Specification and Range of Assessment. Philosophy of Science 78 (5):739-751.
    There is still a great deal of debate over what counts as a constraint and about how to assess experimentally the relative importance of constraints and selection in evolutionary history. I will argue that the notion of a constraint on variation, and thus the selection-constraint distinction, depends on two specifications: (1) what counts as a variant -- constraints limit or bias the production of what? and (2) range of assessment -- over what range of times or conditions is the variation (...)
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  23. Massimo Pigliucci (2007). Finding the Way in Phenotypic Space: The Origin and Maintenance of Constraints on Organismal Form. Annals of Botany 100:433-438.
    Background: One of the all-time questions in evolutionary biology regards the evolution of organismal shapes, and in particular why certain forms appear repeatedly in the history of life, others only seldom and still others not at all. Recent research in this field has deployed the conceptual framework of constraints and natural selection as measured by quantitative genetic methods. -/- Scope: In this paper I argue that quantitative genetics can by necessity only provide us with useful statistical sum- maries that may (...)
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  24. Massimo Pigliucci (2007). Finding the Way in Phenotypic Space: The Origin and Maintenance of Constraints on Organismal Form. Annals of Botany 100:433-438.
    Background: One of the all-time questions in evolutionary biology regards the evolution of organismal shapes, and in particular why certain forms appear repeatedly in the history of life, others only seldom and still others not at all. Recent research in this field has deployed the conceptual framework of constraints and natural selection as measured by quantitative genetic methods. Scope: In this paper I argue that quantitative genetics can by necessity only provide us with useful statistical sum- maries that may lead (...)
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  25. Massimo Pigliucci (ed.) (2004). Phenotypic Integration: Studying the Ecology and Evolution of Complex Phenotypes. Oxford University Press.
    A new voice in the nature-nurture debate can be heard at the interface between evolution and development. Phenotypic integration is a major growth area in research.
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  26. Massimo Pigliucci & Katherine Preston (eds.) (2004). Phenotypic Integration: Studying the Ecology and Evolution of Complex Phenotypes. Oxford University Press.
    A new voice in the nature-nurture debate can be heard at the interface between evolution and development. Phenotypic integration is a major growth area in research.
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  27. Roger Sansom (2009). The Nature of Developmental Constraints and the Difference-Maker Argument for Externalism. Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):441-459.
    One current version of the internalism/externalism debate in evolutionary theory focuses on the relative importance of developmental constraints in evolutionary explanation. The received view of developmental constraints sees them as an internalist concept that tend to be shared across related species as opposed to selective pressures that are not. Thus, to the extent that constraints can explain anything, they can better explain similarity across species, while natural selection is better able to explain their differences. I challenge both of these aspects (...)
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  28. William C. Wimsatt (1986). Developmental Constraints, Generative Entrenchment, and the Innate-Acquired Distinction. In William Bechtel (ed.), Integrating Scientific Disciplines. 185--208.
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