Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 April 2021
The two great creative processes of biology are evolution and development. You and I, as adult human beings, are products of both. Evolution took about four billion years to make the first human from a unicellular organism that emerged from the primordial soup. Development, in the form of embryogenesis together with its post-embryonic counterpart, takes less than 20 years to produce an adult human from a different unicellular organism – a fertilized egg or zygote. By this measure, development operates more than 200 million times faster than evolution. However, despite their very different timescales, the two great creative processes of biology are intrinsically interwoven. Evo-devo is the scientific study of this interweaving. Its full name is evolutionary developmental biology, but because this is an unwieldy phrase it is almost universally referred to by its nickname.