Philipp Mitteröcker


How to model developmental canalization?

Unit for Theoretical Biology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
University of Vienna


Mechanisms that canalize or compensate perturbations of organismal development (targeted or compensatory growth) are widely considered a prerequisite of individual health and the evolution of complex life, but little is known about the nature of these mechanisms. It is even unclear if and how a “target trajectory” of individual development is encoded in the organism’s genetic-developmental system or, instead, emerges as an epiphenomenon. I present a statistical model of developmental canalization based on an extended autoregressive model. I show that under certain assumptions the strength of canalization and the amount of canalized variance in a population can be estimated, or at least approximated, from longitudinal phenotypic measurements, even if the target trajectories are unobserved. I extend this model to multivariate measures and discuss reifications of the ensuing parameter matrix. I present an application of these approaches to human postnatal craniofacial growth. My presentation is based on a paper published together with Katya Stansfield ( but I like to discuss a number of "open ends" of this research and potential collaborations.