One of the fundamental tasks in biology is the identification of genes that control the structure and developmental pattern of complex traits and their responses to the environment during trait development. Functional mapping provides a statistical means for detecting quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that underlie developmental traits, such as growth trajectories, and for testing the interplay between gene action and development. Here we describe how functional mapping and studies of plant ontology can be integrated so as to elucidate the expression mechanisms of QTLs that control plant growth, morphology, development, and adaptation to changing environments. This approach can also be used to construct an evo-devo framework for inferring the evolution of developmental traits.
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