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Towards a Theory of Development$
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Alessandro Minelli and Thomas Pradeu

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199671427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199671427.001.0001

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The landscape metaphor in development

The landscape metaphor in development

(p.114) Chapter 7 The landscape metaphor in development
Towards a Theory of Development

Giuseppe Fusco

Roberto Carrer

Emanuele Serrelli

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews and discusses the use of the landscape metaphor in development by analyzing its relationship with experimental work and theoretical modelling. Defining a landscape as a mathematical function of multiple variables, we show how this can be interpreted as a dynamical system. From the perspective of dynamical systems modelling, an analysis of Waddingto’s‘epigenetic landscap’ is proposed, as well as of other landscape representations occurring in current developmental biology literature. From this particular perspective, the problem of models and metaphorical representations in science is addressed. This problem stands out as a crux for assessing the use of landscapes in development. The somehow parallel stories of Wrigh’s fitness landscapes and Waddingto’s developmental landscapes is discussed. After considering some ideas on developmental landscapes in the context of visualization in science, with a focus on theoretical work in developmental biology, it is concluded that, overall, landscapes seem to be too limited a form of abstraction to stand as a pivotal metaphor in the search for a comprehensive theory of development.

Keywords:   developmental landscape, dynamical system, epigenetic landscape, fitness landscape, model, theoretical biology, theory of development, visualization in science, C.H. Waddington, S. Wright

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