1062-3604/05/3606- © 2005 Pleiades Publishing, Inc.
Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, Vol. 36, No. 6, 2005, p. 389. Translated from Ontogenez, Vol. 36, No. 6, 2005, pp. 463–464.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2005 by Desnitskiy.
The reviewed textbook was written by the well-
known British embryologist Jonathan Slack, head of
the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the
University of Bath (UK) on the basis of the course of
lectures for students. The textbook consists of three
sections and a total of 20 chapters. All chapters are pro-
vided with lists of references for further independent
reading, mostly recent reviews published in the leading
international journals. The book is very well illustrated
by original black-white ﬁgures accessible at the site:
Section 1 (“Groundwork”) is opened by the chapter
“The Excitement of Developmental Biology,” in which
the place of developmental biology is speciﬁed in the
contemporary biology, relations of developmental biol-
ogy with other biological disciplines are described, and
its signiﬁcance for medicine and agriculture is outlined.
The following chapters are: “General Problems of
Development,” “Key Molecular Components” (here the
genes, signal systems, cytoskeleton, and cell adhesion
molecules are discussed), “Common Features of Devel-
opment,” “Developmental Genetics,” Experimental
Embryology,” and “Techniques for the Study of Devel-
opment.” In this section, the author pays considerable
attention not only to the molecular, genetic, and cellular
aspects of development, but also to the evolutionary
ones and stresses that for evolutionary developmental
biology, relationships with paleontology, molecular
phylogeny, and taxonomy are essential.
However, it is surprising why the author refers to
vertebrates as a class (p. 41). It is well known that Ver-
tebrata have the rank of subtype and include several
classes: Cyclostomata, Chondrostei, Teleostei,
Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia.
Section 2 “Major Model Organisms” is opened by a
very interesting chapter “Model Organisms,” which
describes in detail the advantages and disadvantages of
six model species for developmental biology chosen by
the author, the work with which in the laboratory is pos-
sible during any season. The following reasons are
taken into account: accessibility and cost of embryos,
possibilities of micromanipulations, availability of
genetic information, etc. The following chapters, which
contain detailed information on embryology of these
model species, are called, correspondingly: “
“The Zebraﬁsh,” “The Chicken,” “The Mouse,”
,” and “
.” It is a
pity that only six, rather than seven, excellent embryo-
logical essays are presented, since the author did not
include in this list sea urchins, one of the classical spe-
cies for developmental biology studies, although one
cannot work with this species in the laboratory the
whole year round.
Since Slack attaches great importance to the evolu-
tion of developmental mechanisms, it would be advis-
able to attract the attention of readers to the fact that in
the contemporary evolutionary embryology it is very
advantageous to use not only model species, but also
the embryos of related “nonmodel” species. For exam-
ple, in the case of anuran amphibians, there are species,
whose early development differs markedly from that in
, such as
Eleutherodactylus coqui, Gas-
, and some other frogs (for reviews
, 1990; Callery
2001; del Pino
and Elinson, 2003).
Section 3 “Organogenesis and Regeneration”
includes the chapters “Tissues,” “Development of the
Nervous System,” “Development of Mesodermal
Imaginal discs” “Stem Cells and
Tissue Growth,” and “Regeneration of Missing Sec-
tions.” This section deals predominantly with develop-
mental biology of vertebrates, except the imaginal discs
and regeneration in planarians.
This textbook has already been republished twice, in
2002 and 2003, apparently without any modiﬁcations
and corrections, which suggests that it is much in
demand. While reading this textbook student will get
familiarized with the main principles of contemporary
developmental biology of multicellular animals, which
are given by the author concisely, but very distinctly.
The textbook will also be useful for instructors in
embryology and all those who are interested in the
problems of ontogenesis in Metazoa.
Slack, J. M. W.,
Essential Developmental Biology
Malden: Blackwell, 2001