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Integr Comp Biol. 2012 Jul;52(1):120-7. doi: 10.1093/icb/ics037. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Introduction to symposium: Poecilogony--a window on larval evolutionary transitions in marine invertebrates.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, 40014, Finland.


Poecilogony is the intraspecific variation in developmental mode that has been described in some marine invertebrates. Poecilogonous species produce different larval forms (e.g., free-swimming planktotrophic larvae as well as brooded lecithotrophic or adelphophagic larvae). Poecilogony can be a controversial topic, since it is difficult to identify and characterize the phenomenon with certainty. It has been challenging to determine whether poecilogony represents developmental polymorphism with a genetic basis or developmental polyphenism reflecting plastic responses to environmental cues. Other outstanding questions include whether common mechanisms underlie the developmental variation we observe in poecilogonous species, and whether poecilogony is maintained in different taxa through similar mechanisms or selective pressures. Poecilogonous species provide a unique opportunity to elucidate the cellular, developmental, and genetic mechanisms underlying evolutionary transitions in developmental mode, as well as to help clarify the selective pressures and possible ecological circumstances that might be involved. Here, we describe an integrative approach to the study of poecilogony and its role in larval evolutionary transitions highlighted during a symposium held at the 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

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