The dynamic nature of developing organisms and how they function presents both opportunity and challenge to researchers, with significant advances in understanding possible by adopting innovative approaches to their empirical study. The information content of the phenotype during organismal development is arguably greater than at any other life stage, incorporating change at a broad range of temporal, spatial and functional scales and is of broad relevance to a plethora of research questions. Yet, effectively measuring organismal development, and the ontogeny of physiological regulations and functions, and their responses to the environment, remains a significant challenge. “Phenomics”, a global approach to the acquisition of phenotypic data at the scale of the whole organism, is uniquely suited as an approach. In this perspective, we explore the synergies between phenomics and Comparative Developmental Physiology (CDP), a discipline of increasing relevance to understanding sensitivity to drivers of global change. We then identify how organismal development itself provides an excellent model for pushing the boundaries of phenomics, given its inherent complexity, comparably smaller size, relative to adult stages, and the applicability of embryonic development to a broad suite of research questions using a diversity of species. Collection, analysis and interpretation of whole organismal phenotypic data are the largest obstacle to capitalising on phenomics for advancing our understanding of biological systems. We suggest that phenomics within the context of developing organismal form and function could provide an effective scaffold for addressing grand challenges in CDP and phenomics.



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Frontiers in Physiology





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School of Biological and Marine Sciences