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Integr Comp Biol. 2012 Jul;52(1):64-76. doi: 10.1093/icb/ics043. Epub 2012 May 15.

The integrated phenotype.

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Department of Biology, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424, USA.


Proper functioning of complex phenotypes requires that multiple traits work together. Examination of relationships among traits within and between complex characters and how they interact to function as a whole organism is critical to advancing our understanding of evolutionary developmental plasticity. Phenotypic integration refers to the relationships among multiple characters of a complex phenotype, and their relationships with other functional units (modules) in an organism. In this review, I summarize a brief history of the concept of phenotypic integration in plant and animal biology. Following an introduction of concepts, including modularity, I use an empirical case-study approach to highlight recent advance in clarifying the developmental and genomic basis of integration. I end by highlighting some novel approaches to genomic and epigenetic perturbations that offer promise in further addressing the role of phenotypic integration in evolutionary diversification. In the age of the phenotype, studies that examine the genomic and developmental changes in relationships of traits across environments will shape the next chapter in our quest for understanding the evolution of complex characters.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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