It is hoped that, by this point, the reader is convinced that we have determined many of the important principles guiding animal and plant development. A central theme regarding animal development has been that basic developmental mechanisms in vertebrates and invertebrates are shared because all segmented animals inherited a variety of genetic devices from a common ancestor that had already invented these fundamental patterning processes. As discussed in the previous two chapters, there also are surprising similarities between the mechanisms used to pattern plants and animals. In the latter case, however, it is thought that these two major kingdoms of life evolved independently from a unicellular ancestor into multicellular organisms. The parallels between animal and plant development suggest that there may only be a limited number of molecular mechanisms available to create pattern during development.
Now I want to explore the practical implications of our newly acquired knowledge of animal and plant development. I first consider the applications arising from the commonalities between model invertebrate organisms such as fruit flies and vertebrates on problems relating to human health. I then consider the enormous economic impact of the ability to manipulate the development of plants. These considerable practical spin-offs of basic research should serve as potent arguments in favor of continuing our current generous level of federal support for basic research. Because important discoveries made in basic science rapidly and pervasively make their way into all of our lives, it does make Dollars and Sense to continue investing in science. After considering the practical benefits of our understanding of development, I end with a little science fiction fantasy regarding what the future may hold.
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