Abstract

We have devised a simple model for assessing the role of development in shaping the evolution of morphological disparity. Disparity of a clade at any given time is expressed in terms of the developmental dynamics that lead to the variety of adult morphotypes observed. We use assumed phenotypic manifestations of developmental processes, as they could be detected from allometric characterizations, to distinguish a few, nonexclusive types of evolutionary changes in ontogeny. On the basis of this formalization, we describe the diversification of hypothetical clades, using the standard curve of adult morphological disparity, the curve of juvenile disparity, and the curve of allometric disparity, the latter quantifying the diversification of clades in allometric space. Contrasts of these curves reflect the underlying developmental scheme that drives temporal changes in disparity. We then vary the parameters of the model to assess the expected signature of each metric under specific conditions: changes in the relative frequencies of the types of evolutionary developmental changes, changes in the transition magnitude attached to each of them, and effects of temporal variation in average adult size on disparity curves and patterns of morphospace occupation. Results emphasize the potential contribution of these proxies for developmental dynamics—juvenile morphological disparity, allometric disparity, and average adult size—in enriching the interpretation of standard disparity curves and the description of clade histories, with possible process-oriented inferences.

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