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Am J Bot. 2011 Mar;98(3):397-403. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1000279. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle: developmental evolution of trait diversification.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, 1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, Kansas 66045, USA.


A major focus of evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) studies is to determine the genetic basis of variation in organismal form and function, both of which are fundamental to biological diversification. Pioneering work on metazoan and flowering plant systems has revealed conserved sets of genes that underlie the bauplan of organisms derived from a common ancestor. However, the extent to which variation in the developmental genetic toolkit mirrors variation at the phenotypic level is an active area of research. Here we explore evidence from the angiosperm evo-devo literature supporting the frugal use of genes and genetic pathways in the evolution of developmental patterning. In particular, these examples highlight the importance of genetic pleiotropy in different developmental modules, thus reducing the number of genes required in growth and development, and the reuse of particular genes in the parallel evolution of ecologically important traits.

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