Among the many, sometimes contradictory, criteria that have been used for promoting model species, the most prominent has probably been their relevance for understanding human biology. Recently however, the debate has partly shifted from the search for evolutionary conservation (medicine-driven models) to a better understanding of the generative mechanisms underlying biological diversity (Evo-Devo-driven models). Integration of multiple disciplines, beyond developmental genetics and evolutionary molecular genetics, as well as of innovative technologies will help biologists to open the massive realm of living species to genome manipulation and phenotypic investigation. However, a consensual list of model species must still be reached for optimizing the interplay between in silico analyses and in vivo experiments, and we claim that the Evo-Devo community should play a more energetic role in this endeavor. We discuss here a few criteria and limitations of major relevance to the choice of model species for Evo-Devo studies, and promote the use of a pragmatic approach. Finally, given the difficulties related to manipulating and breeding model species, we suggest the development of Evo-Devo virtual zoos maintaining breeding colonies of a selected set of species and from which eggs or staged embryos are available on order.
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