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J Exp Biol. 1999 Oct;202(Pt 20):2709-18.

Laboratory selection for the comparative physiologist.

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  • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA. agibbs@mail.arl.arizona.edu


An increasingly popular experimental approach in comparative physiology is to study the evolution of physiological traits in the laboratory, using microbial, invertebrate and vertebrate models. Because selective conditions are well-defined, selected populations can be replicated and unselected control populations are available for direct comparison, strong conclusions regarding the adaptive value of an evolved response can be drawn. These studies have shown that physiological systems evolve rapidly in the laboratory, but not always as one would expect from comparative studies of different species. Laboratory environments are often not as simple as one thinks, so that the evolution of behavioral differences or selection acting on different life stages can lead to unanticipated results. In some cases, unexpected responses to laboratory selection may suggest new insights into physiological mechanisms, which might not be available using other experimental approaches. I outline here recent results (including success stories and caveats for the unwary investigator) and potential directions for selection experiments in comparative physiology.

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