Evolution and development are two inherently intertwined processes. As the embryo develops it does so in ways that both reflect past constraints and bias the future evolution of the species. While research exploiting this insight typically studies individual genes, transcriptomic analyses have sparked a new wave of discoveries. In this opinion piece, I review the evidence arising from transcriptomics on the topics of the evolution of germ layers, the phylotypic stage, and developmental constraints. The spatiotemporal pattern of gene expression across germ layers provides evidence that the endoderm was the first germ layer to evolve. Comparing transcriptome dynamics throughout developmental time across distant species reveals a mid-developmental transition under strong developmental constraints. These studies highlight the efficiency of exploratory data analysis using computational tools and comparative approaches for discovery.