Wagner, Gunter 2018 Daniel Giraud Elliott

Wagner, Gunter 2018 Daniel Giraud Elliott

Günter Wagner, Yale University, received the 2018 NAS Award in the Evolution of Earth and Life - Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal.

Wagner has made a lifetime of fundamental contributions to the integration of developmental and evolutionary biology, most recently and most notably his 2014 book “Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation,” which addresses a question that has persisted since the time of Charles Darwin, namely the origin of evolutionary novelties, or how new or original traits emerge in organisms.  

In the book – constructed like Darwin’s “Origin of Species” as “one long argument” – Wagner advances a model as to how organisms rapidly evolved novel characteristics or innovations, such as feather or flowers. To accomplish this, Wagner’s book makes two primary claims: First, that novelty is a process that generates newly individuated morphologic characters; and second, that these novel characters are generated by recursively wired gene regulatory subnetworks, which Wagner first described in 2007 as “character identity networks.” 

Already a highly analyzed volume, “Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation” is predicted to orient research in evolutionary developmental biology for decades to come. 

The Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal recognizes a most meritorious, recently published work in zoology or paleontology. The award is presented with a medal and a $20,000 prize.


Watch Wagner's Acceptance Speech »

Press Release »

NAS Award in the Evolution of Earth and Life »

2018 NAS Award Recipients »

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