NEW: Read our companion papers on Drosophila sex comb cell biology and evolution in the current issue of Evolution & Development.

Atallah, J., Liu, N.H., Dennis, P., Hon, A., Godt, D., and Larsen, E. (2009). Cell dynamics and developmental bias in the ontogeny of a complex sexually dimorphic trait in Drosophila melanogasterEvol. Dev.  11(2): 191-204.

Atallah, J., Liu, N.H., Dennis, P., Hon, A., and Larsen, E. (2009). Developmental constraints and convergent evolution in Drosophila sex comb formation. Evol. Dev. 11(2): 205-218.


Our lab focuses on the intersection of genetics, development and evolution in what is now called evolutionary developmental biology. We use a variety organisms to study several kinds of questions but the fruit fly is our primary subject.

Present and past lab members have concerned themselves with the robustness of development. How can members of a species have identifiable similarities despite growing in different environments and having different genetic polymorphisms? (PDF)

Another question concerns the nature and dynamics of developmental competence, the ability to respond to conditions, internal or external to go in a new developmental path.

We ask whether there are developmental constraints which prevent certain taxa from developing certain types of structures and have utilized a designer organism approach to this (PDF) and  we also ask, what contributes to morphological evolvability? (PDF) (PDF)

Why is there rapid morphological evolution for some traits and not others? Students are studying cellular behaviour in the establishment of bristle patterns in fruit flies and comparing these processes in different species. In the systems under investigation, evolution is quite rapid allowing us to decide if there are unique genetic or cellular underpinnings.

An ongoing research project is establishing the genetic basis of naturally occurring colour variation in sowbugs (PDF). Mechanisms responsible for recently discovered hermaphrodites in the colony are also being investigated.

A new project involves using lichens to explore requirements for the evolution of multicellular morphology from free living cells.