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Am Nat. 2012 Jan;179(1):64-78. doi: 10.1086/663200. Epub 2011 Nov 30.

Constraint and opportunity: the genetic basis and evolution of modularity in the cichlid mandible.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244, USA. kparsons@bio.umass.edu

Abstract

Modular variation, whereby the relative degree of connectivity varies within a system, is thought to evolve through a process of selection that favors the integration of certain traits and the decoupling of others. In this way, modularity may facilitate the pace of evolution and determine evolvability. Alternatively, conserved patterns of modularity may act to constrain the rate and direction of evolution by preventing certain functions from evolving. A comprehensive understanding of the potential interplay between these phenomena will require knowledge of the inheritance and the genetic basis of modularity. Here we explore these ideas in the cichlid mandible by investigating patterns of modularity at the clade and species levels and through the introduction of a new approach, the individual level. Specifically, we assessed patterns of covariation in Lake Malawi cichlid species that employ alternate "biting" and "suction-feeding" modes of feeding and in a hybrid cross between these two ecotypes. Across the suction-feeding clade, patterns of modularity were largely conserved and reflected a functionally based pattern. In contrast, the biting species displayed a pattern of modularity that more closely matched developmental modules. The pattern of modularity present in our F2 population was very similar to the pattern exhibited by the biter, suggesting a role for dominant inheritance. We demonstrate that our individual-level metric of modularity (IMM) is a valid quantitative trait that has a nonlinear relationship with shape. IMMs for each model were used as quantitative characters to map quantitative trait loci (QTL) that underlie modularity. Our QTL analysis offers new insights into the genetic basis of modularity in these fishes that may eventually lead to the discovery of the genetic processes that delineate particular modules. In all, our findings suggest that modularity is both a constraining and an evolvable force in cichlid evolution, as distinct patterns occur between species and variation exists among individuals.

PMID:
22173461
DOI:
10.1086/663200
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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