Evo-Devo of Child Growth

Evolutionary development biology (referred to in the field as “evo-devo”) investigates how developmental systems have evolved and the implications of those systems for organismal evolution. In his new book Evo-Devo of Child Growth: Treatise on Child Growth and Human Evolution, Ze’ev Hochberg analyzes child growth and development through the evo-devo lens and provides “real world” applications for both evolutionary biologists and clinicians.

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  • As you compiled your book, did anything in the research particularly surprise or intrigue you?

It is quite amazing how the tempo of development is programmed early in life. In a recent as yet unpublished study we found that by modifying the period of breastfeeding, the tempo is set, and that it is transmitted from one to the next generation.

  • How are you working to integrate evo-devo studies with medicine? Do you see medical research moving in this direction in the long run?

Evolutionary medicine is a new approach to medical learning which is gaining increasing interest, but is still in its infancy. I use an evolutionary theory called “Life History” and I’m probably among the first to have developing it clinical medicine. The book is meant among other to expose this new approach.

  • Are there any other areas outside your own specialty where evo-devo is being applied which you find to be particularly exciting?

Evolutionary development biology (evo-devo) addresses the issues of how developmental systems have evolved and probes the consequences of these historically established systems for organismal evolution. So far, research in evo-devo has formed around comparative embryology and morphology, evolutionary developmental genetics, and experimental epigenetics. The book takes evo-devo for the first time into the realm of clinical medicine and child growth.

  • What stage of child development do you personally find to be the most interesting?

The novelty of this book is the concept of transitions between life history stages as times when the child adaptively responds to environmental cues in order to enhance growth-body composition-lifespan-fecundity schedules and behavioral strategies that yield the highest fitness in a given environment. The most important finding we have previously published in research is that the infancy-childhood transition is the time when the ultimate height is set.

  • You finish your book with several chapters about growth disorders. Are we any closer to finding cures for these?

Scientists deal with phenomena and understanding them. I hope the book shed new light on growth in some disorders of growth. Cure is beyond my scope.

  • What three main concepts or themes would you like readers of your book to come away with?
  1. The transitions of life history, as in #3.
  2. Child growth is adaptive to his and his parents and grandparents environment.
  3. At the end of adolescence, when the child seems to be fully mature, he enters a new life history stage that I call youth, when his brain and cognition, his behavior and socialization take their adult form around age 24.

Read excerpts from Evo-Devo of Child Growth: Treatise on Child Growth and Human Evolution and find out more about the book at wiley.com.

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