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J Theor Biol. 2007 Sep 21;248(2):322-30. Epub 2007 Jun 2.

Inferring developmental constraint and constraint release: primordial germ cell determination mechanisms as examples.

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Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA 70402, USA.


Developmental constraint and its converse constraint release are significant concepts in understanding pattern and process in macroevolution. The purpose of this paper is to propose a two-step method for identifying constraints and constraint release. The first step is a phylogenetic optimization procedure to identify which trait/process is primitive and which is derived. The primitive trait is inferred to be the constraint and the convergently derived trait the release. The second criterion uses sister-clade asymmetry. Clades diagnosed by the constraint will have fewer taxa than clades diagnosed by the release. As an example, we use the process of germ cell specification, in which there are three modes of specification. Our results corroborate previous conclusions that the induced mode is the constraint and the predetermined mode is the release and we speculate on the importance of these two processes in terms of robustness and evolvability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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