Ontogeny and Phylogeny (book)
Ontogeny and Phylogeny is Stephen Jay Gould's
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

 first technical book, published in 1977 by Belknap, a division of Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

. Gould wrote that Ernst Mayr
Ernst Mayr
Ernst Walter Mayr was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, historian of science, and naturalist...

 suggested in passing that he write the book, but that "I only began it as a practice run to learn the style of lengthy exposition before embarking on my magnum opus about macroevolution." This became The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is a technical book on macroevolutionary theory by the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, published only two months before his death. The volume is divided into two parts. The first is a historical study and exegesis of classical evolutionary thought,...

, published in 2002.

Ontogeny and Phylogeny explores the relationship between embryonic development (ontogeny
Ontogeny is the origin and the development of an organism – for example: from the fertilized egg to mature form. It covers in essence, the study of an organism's lifespan...

) and biological evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 (phylogeny). The book also discusses the role recapitulation
Recapitulation may refer to:* Recapitulation , a section of musical sonata form where the exposition is repeated in an altered form and the development is concluded...

—the discredited idea that embryonic developmental stages replay the evolutionary transitions of adult forms of an organism's past descendants—had on biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

, theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, and psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

. The second half of the book details how modern concepts such as heterochrony
In biology, heterochrony is defined as a developmental change in the timing of events, leading to changes in size and shape. There are two main components, namely the onset and offset of a particular process, and the rate at which the process operates...

 (changes in developmental timing) and neoteny
Neoteny , also called juvenilization , is one of the two ways by which paedomorphism can arise. Paedomorphism is the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles, and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. In neoteny, the physiological development of an...

 (the retardation of developmental expression or growth rates) have in influencing macroevolution
Macroevolution is evolution on a scale of separated gene pools. Macroevolutionary studies focus on change that occurs at or above the level of species, in contrast with microevolution, which refers to smaller evolutionary changes within a species or population.The process of speciation may fall...

 (major evolutionary transitions).

It has been said that of all the books that Gould wrote in his career, "the one with the most impact is probably Ontogeny and Phylogeny...to say that this work is a hallmark in this area of evolutionary theory would be an understatement. It proved to be the catalyst for much of the future work in the field, and to a large degree was the inspiration for the modern field of 'evolutionary developmental biology
Evolutionary developmental biology
Evolutionary developmental biology is a field of biology that compares the developmental processes of different organisms to determine the ancestral relationship between them, and to discover how developmental processes evolved...

'. Gould's hope was to show that the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny is fundamental to evolution, and at its heart is a simple premise - that variations in the timing and rate of development provide the raw material upon which natural selection can operate."


  1. Prospectus

Part One - Recapitulation

  1. The Analogistic Tradition from Anaximander to Bonnet

  1. Transcendental Origins, 1793-1860

  1. Evolutionary Triumph, 1859–1900

  1. Pervasive Influence

  1. Decline, Fall, and Generalizations

Part Two - Heterochrony and Paedomorphosis

  1. Heterochrony and the Parallel of Ontogeny and Phylogeny

  1. The Ecological and Evolutionary Significance of Heterochrony

  1. Progenesis and Neoteny

  1. Retardation and Neoteny in Human Evolution

  1. Epilogue


  • Shape, form, development, ecology, genetics, and evolution - by David B. Wake
    David B. Wake
    David B. Wake is professor of integrative biology and former curator of herpetology of Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. Wake is an internationally respected expert on species formation and has written widely on the subject...

    , Paleobiology
    Paleobiology is a growing and comparatively new discipline which combines the methods and findings of the natural science biology with the methods and findings of the earth science paleontology...

  • The History of a Theory - by James Gorman, The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

  • Book review - by Danny Yee

Blurbs from some other reviews

External links

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