Gif image of ARP, 60K A. Richard Palmer, FRSC
Professor Emeritus

Address: Dept. of Biological Sciences
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9
Z1116 Biological Sciences Bldg.
+1 (780) 492-3633, 3308
+1 (780) 492-9234
       (Honors, CV-pdf)

"The shadow of the bamboo sweeps the stair all night long,
yet not a mote of dust is stirred.
The moonbeams penetrate to the bottom of the pool,
yet in the water not a trace is left."

Chikan Zenji, circa AD 850

     Brady's Beach & Pacific Ocean, Bamfield, British Columbia
    Home Research / Teaching People & Projects Publications Student Publications Asymmetry  

Current Research
  Evolution by natural selection requires three steps. New phenotypic variation 1) must arise, 2) must have an impact on fitness (survival or fecundity), and 3) must (ultimately) be heritable. The first step -- how new variation arises -- remains controversial. Traditionally, new phenotypes are ascribed to novel genotypes (mutants or recombinants). But developmental plasticity -- the same genotype yields different forms in different environments -- may be a much more important source of new phenotypes than generally recognized. This has renewed interest in its evolutionary significance.

Development & evolution of claw asymmetry in fiddler crabs (Uca)
(see Science 2004, Current Biology 2009, Philosophical Transactions 2016)

Our work has yielded valuable insights into the causes and adaptive significance of several striking examples of developmental plasticity and our studies of the development, genetics and evolutionary history of right-left asymmetry variation have yielded some of the strongest evidence to date for a genes-as-followers mode of evolution (sometimes called genetic assimilation) -- a result that caught the attention of the Pharyngula blog. We continue to explore the interplay between developmental plasticity and evolution on both ecological time scales (via descriptive and experimental studies) and evolutionary time scales (via comparative studies).

(view citation metrics)

Ongoing research includes:
  • evolutionary origins of novel energy-storage mechanisms in ultrafast shrimp and amphipod claws
  • limb and limb-muscle transformation in pre- and post-settlement barnacles
  • comparative morphology of doubly asymmetric, rock-boring snapping shrimp
  • identification of sound-producing invertebrates in coastal British Columbia
  • role of learned, handed behavior in the evolution of morphological asymmetry
  • development and evolution of morphological asymmetries in many taxa
BMSC Web Cam
Most of our research is done at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, a magnificent field station on the west coast of Vancouver Island:
BamfieldPanorama.jpg West Side Bamfield & Barkley Sound, from BMSC

Our research is funded by:  NSERC logo, 3K


Research Resources

  • T.H. Huxley's 'The Crayfish' on-line (a WONDERFUL, turn-of-the-century essay on Zoology for the layman; complete with hot-links to a glossary and copies of the original woodcut figures)

Current/Past Teaching

Z250.jpg, 13K

B606.GIF, 4K

Survey of Invertebrates

(extensive WWW content;
through 2017)
Systematics & Evolution Forum

(through 2017)
Animal Structure & Function

(in the Bamfield Fall Program;
through 2020)

Professional Honors



PanAmEvoDevo.jpg Invited Speaker (Aug., 2015)
Inaugural Meeting, Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology
Berkeley, California
ButterflyGynandromorph.jpg Keynote Speaker (April, 2014)
Symmetry and Asymmetry in Biology
Museum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris
NewYorker.png Quoted in New Yorker Essay (2010)
The Truth Wears Off (Jonah Lehrer)
New Yorker (Dec. 13, 2010)
KNAW.png Visiting Professor (2009-2010)
Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences
Naturalis, Leiden
LorentzLogo.png Invited Participant (2008)
Lorentz Center Workshop
Symmetry as a Modern Scientific Concept

Leiden University
GRC-logo.gif Invited Plenary Lecture (2006)
Gordon Research Conference:
Organic Reactions & Processes

Bryant University, Rhode Island
UPR.gif, 8K Invited Plenary Lecture (2003)
100th Anniversary University of Puerto Rico Graduate Student Research Symposium: "Biology of the New Millennium", San Juan, Puerto Rico
chiral.JPG, 4K Invited Plenary Lecture (2001)
International Symposium on Chirality
Orlando, Florida
DZG.gif, 8K Invited Plenary Lecture (2000)
German Zoological Society
Annual Meeting, Bonn, Germany
NAS.jpg Invited Participant (1996)
US National Academy of Sciences Colloquium: Symmetries Throughout the Sciences
WSN.JPG, 4K 76th President (1995)
Western Society of Naturalists
Presidential address: "On koans and two-headed fish"



CSZlogo.png, 10K Honorary Member (2018)
Canadian Society of Zoologists
NSERCicon.gif, 12K Co-chair Ecology & Evolution
Grant Selection Committee
(Appointed 2012)
NSERC Canada
RSC-logo.jpg, 12K Fellow (Elected 2007)
Royal Society of Canada
(UA Express News Story)
CMDlogo.gif, 10K Inaugural Chair (2005-2007),
Secretary-General (2007-2018)
Comparative Morphology & Development Section,
Canadian Society of Zoologists


University of Alberta

UACrest.gif Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring (2014)
Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research
FacSci.jpg Graduate Mentoring Award (2014)
Faculty of Science
GSAlogo.png Graduate Student Supervisor Award (2011)
Graduate Student Association
UACrest.gif Gordin Kaplan Award (2010)
for Excellence in Research
(UA Express News Story)
UACrest.gif McCalla Research Professor (2000/2001)


Award for Excellent Teaching (2000/2001)
Faculty of Science


Biological Sciences Home Page
Copyright © 1997 - 2019 by A. Richard Palmer. All rights reserved.
(revised March 31, 2019)

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