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Dev Dyn. 2005 Dec;234(4):815-23.

Fishing for the secrets of vertebrate evolution in threespine sticklebacks.

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Division of Human Biology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is rapidly emerging as a new model genetic system to study questions at the interface of evolution and development. The relatively rapid and recent diversification of this small teleost fish, combined with the development of genetic and genomic tools for this fish, provides an unprecedented opportunity to identify the genetic and molecular basis of morphological variation in natural populations of vertebrates. Recently, the genes underlying two different adaptive morphological traits in stickleback have been identified. This work has provided answers to four longstanding questions in the field of evolution and development: (1) How many genes underlie morphological variation in natural populations? (2) What are the genes that underlie morphological variation in natural populations? (3) Do coding or regulatory mutations underlie morphological evolution? (4) What is the molecular and genetic basis of parallel morphological evolution? Because stickleback populations also display natural variation in morphology, life history, physiology, and behavior, extending the approaches used to identify the genetic basis of morphological variation in sticklebacks to other phenotypes is sure to yield further important insights into the genetic and developmental basis of diversity in natural populations.

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