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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 980151, 5 pages
Opinion Paper

Developmental Principles: Fact or Fiction

Sylvius Laboratory, Institute of Biology, University of Leiden, Wassenaarseweg 72, 2333 BE Leiden, The Netherlands

Received 27 September 2011; Accepted 25 October 2011

Academic Editor: David Tannahill

Copyright © 2012 A. J. Durston. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


While still at school, most of us are deeply impressed by the underlying principles that so beautifully explain why the chemical elements are ordered as they are in the periodic table, and may wonder, with the theoretician Brian Goodwin, “whether there might be equally powerful principles that account for the awe-inspiring diversity of body forms in the living realm”. We have considered the arguments for developmental principles, conclude that they do exist and have specifically identified features that may generate principles associated with Hox patterning of the main body axis in bilaterian metazoa in general and in the vertebrates in particular. We wonder whether this exercise serves any purpose. The features we discuss were already known to us as parts of developmental mechanisms and defining developmental principles (how, and at which level?) adds no insight. We also see little profit in the proposal by Goodwin that there are principles outside the emerging genetic mechanisms that need to be taken into account. The emerging developmental genetic hierarchies already reveal a wealth of interesting phenomena, whatever we choose to call them.