Varieties of Modules: Kinds, Levels, Origins, and Behaviors

Journal of Experimental Zoology 291:116-129 (2001)
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This article began as a review of a conference, organized by Gerhard Schlosser, entitled “Modularity in Development and Evolution.” The conference was held at, and sponsored by, the Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst, Germany in May, 2000. The article subsequently metamorphosed into a literature and concept review as well as an analysis of the differences in current perspectives on modularity. Consequently, I refer to general aspects of the conference but do not review particular presentations. I divide modules into three kinds: structural, developmental, and physiological. Every module fulfills none, one, or multiple functional roles. Two further orthogonal distinctions are important in this context: module-kinds versus module-variants-of-a-kind and reproducer versus nonreproducer modules. I review criteria for individuation of modules and mechanisms for the phylogenetic origin of modularity. I discuss conceptual and methodological differences between developmental and evolutionary biologists, in particular the difference between integration and competition perspectives on individualization and modular behavior. The variety in views regarding modularity presents challenges that require resolution in order to attain a comprehensive, rather than a piecemeal and fragmentary, evolutionary developmental biology.



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Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz

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