Phenotype ontologies: the bridge between genomics and evolution.
Understanding the developmental and genetic underpinnings of particular evolutionary changes has been hindered by inadequate databases of evolutionary anatomy and by the lack of a computational approach to identify underlying candidate genes and regulators. By contrast, model organism studies have been enhanced by ontologies shared among genomic databases. Here, we suggest that evolutionary and genomics databases can be developed to exchange and use information through shared phenotype and anatomy ontologies. This would facilitate computing on evolutionary questions pertaining to the genetic basis of evolutionary change, the genetic and developmental bases of correlated characters and independent evolution, biomedical parallels to evolutionary change, and the ecological and paleontological correlates of particular types of change in genes, gene networks and developmental pathways.