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Evolution. 2009 Nov;63(11):2771-89. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00761.x. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

Metamodels and phylogenetic replication: a systematic approach to the evolution of developmental pathways.

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Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Molecular genetic analysis of phenotypic variation has revealed many examples of evolutionary change in the developmental pathways that control plant and animal morphology. A major challenge is to integrate the information from diverse organisms and traits to understand the general patterns of developmental evolution. This integration can be facilitated by evolutionary metamodels-traits that have undergone multiple independent changes in different species and whose development is controlled by well-studied regulatory pathways. The metamodel approach provides the comparative equivalent of experimental replication, allowing us to test whether the evolution of each developmental pathway follows a consistent pattern, and whether different pathways are predisposed to different modes of evolution by their intrinsic organization. A review of several metamodels suggests that the structure of developmental pathways may bias the genetic basis of phenotypic evolution, and highlights phylogenetic replication as a value-added approach that produces deeper insights into the mechanisms of evolution than single-species analyses.

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