The past ten years of developmental genetics have revealed that most of our genes are shared by other species throughout the animal kingdom. Consequently, animal diversity might largely rely on the differential use of the same components, either at the individual level through divergent functional recruitment, or at a more integrated level, through their participation in various genetic networks. Here, we argue that this inevitably leads to an increase in the interdependency between functions that, in turn, influences the degree to which novel variations can be tolerated. In this 'transitionist' scheme, evolution is neither inherently gradualist nor punctuated but, instead, progresses from one extreme to the other, together with the increased complexity of organisms.
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