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Genetica. 2002 May;115(1):131-46.

Genome size and developmental complexity.

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Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Haploid genome size (C-value) is correlated positively with cell size, and negatively with cell division rate, in a variety of taxa. Because these associations are causative, genome size has the potential to impact (and in turn, be influenced by) organism-level characters affected by variation in either of these cell-level parameters. One such organismal feature is development. Developmental rate, in particular, has been associated with genome size in numerous plant, vertebrate, and invertebrate groups. However, rate is only one side of the developmental coin; the other important component is complexity. When developmental complexity is held essentially constant, as among many plants, developmental rate is the visibly relevant parameter. In this case, genome size can impose thresholds on developmental lifestyle (and vice versa), as among annual versus perennial plants. When developmental rate is constrained (as during time-limited amphibian metamorphosis), complexity becomes the notable variable. An appreciation for this rate-complexity interaction has so far been lacking, but is essential for an understanding of the relationships between genome size and development. Moreover, such an expanded view may help to explain patterns of variation in taxa as diverse as insects and fish. In each case, a hierarchical approach is necessary which recognizes the complex interaction of evolutionary processes operating at several levels of biological organization.

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