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Genetica. 2007 Jan;129(1):105-26. Epub 2006 Aug 8.

Studies of threespine stickleback developmental evolution: progress and promise.

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Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-5289, USA.


A promising route for understanding the origin and diversification of organismal form is through studies at the intersection of evolution and development (evo-devo). While much has been learned over the last two decades concerning macroevolutionary patterns of developmental change, a fundamental gap in the evo-devo synthesis is the integration of mathematical population and quantitative genetics with studies of how genetic variation in natural populations affects developmental processes. This micro-evo-devo synthesis requires model organisms with which to ask empirical questions. Threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus), long a model for studying behavior, ecology and evolution, is emerging as a prominent model micro-evo-devo system. Research on stickleback over the last decade has begun to address the genetic basis of morphological variation and sex determination, and much of this work has important implications for understanding the genetics of speciation. In this paper we review recent threespine stickleback micro-evo-devo results, and outline the resources that have been developed to make this synthesis possible. The prospects for stickleback research to speed the micro-(and macro-) evo-devo syntheses are great, and this workhorse model system is well situated to continue contributing to our understanding of the generation of diversity in organismal form for many more decades.

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