Author's Department


Document Type


Publication Date



von Baer's law states that early stages of animal development are the most conserved. More recent evidence supports a modified "hourglass" pattern in which an early but somewhat later stage is most conserved. Both patterns have been explained by the relative complexity of either temporal or spatial interactions; the greatest conservation and lowest evolvability occur at the time of the most complex interactions, because these cause larger effects that are harder for selection to alter. This general kind of explanation might apply universally across independent multicellular systems, as supported by the recent finding of the hourglass pattern in plants. We use RNA-seq expression data from the development of the slime mold Dictyostelium to demonstrate that it does not follow either of the two canonical patterns but instead tends to show the strongest conservation and weakest evolvability late in development. We propose that this is consistent with a version of the spatial constraints model, modified for organisms that never achieve a high degree of developmental modularity.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Molecular Biology and Evolution following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version, Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Apr;30(4):977-84. Dictyostelium development shows a novel pattern of evolutionary conservation. Tian X, Strassmann JE, Queller DC., is available online at: doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst007.

Embargo Period


Tian_suppl_MBE.pdf (1638 kB)
figures and tables

Included in

Biology Commons