Ecological Developmental Biology

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Book Chapter

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Ecological developmental biology is the science that studies the interactions between developing organisms and their environmental contexts. It studies development in the ‘real world’ of predators, competitors, symbionts, toxic compounds, temperature changes and nutritional differences. The environment plays a substantial role in development, and in many instances, normal development cannot occur without environmental signalling. Symbionts, for instance are needed in many organisms for the development of particular organs. Environmental agents can elicit epigenetic changes in gene expression that can change an organism's phenotype. In many instances, however, substances in the environment of developing organisms can act detrimentally, causing birth defects and predisposing the organism to diseases in adulthood. Epigenetics has recently provided startling insights into how environmental agents experienced during embryonic development can predispose one to cancer, obesity, hypertension and diabetes later in life.


ecological developmental biology, symbiosis, epigenetics, teratogens, plasticity, evolution

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