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Evolution. 2006 Jun;60(6):1291-9.

Evolutionary persistence of phenotypic integration: influence of developmental and functional relationships on complex trait evolution.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


Examination of historical persistence of integration patterns provides an important insight into understanding the origin and evolution of complex traits. Specifically, the distinct effects of developmental and functional integration on the evolution of complex traits are often overlooked. Because patterns of functional integration are commonly shaped by selection exerted by the external environment, whereas patterns of developmental integration can be determined by relatively environment-independent selection for developmental homeostasis, examination of historical persistence of morphological integration patterns among species should reveal the relative importance of current selection in the evolution of complex traits. We compared historical persistence of integration patterns produced by current developmental versus ecological requirements by examining the evolution of complex mandibular structures in nine species of soricid shrews. We found that, irrespective of phylogenetic relatedness of species, patterns of developmental and functional integration were highly concordant, suggesting that strong selection for developmental homeostasis favors concordant channeling of both internal and external variation. Overall, our results suggest that divergence in mandible shape among species closely follows variation in functional demands and ecological requirements regardless of phylogenetic relatedness among species.

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