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Bioessays. 2015 Feb;37(2):213-26. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400142. Epub 2014 Nov 7.

Closing the genotype-phenotype gap: emerging technologies for evolutionary genetics in ecological model vertebrate systems.

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Chair in Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany; Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.


The analysis of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of the genotype-phenotypic connection has, so far, only been possible in a handful of genetic model systems. Recent technological advances, including next-generation sequencing methods such as RNA-seq, ChIP-seq and RAD-seq, and genome-editing approaches including CRISPR-Cas, now permit to address these fundamental questions of biology also in organisms that have been studied in their natural habitats. We provide an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of these novel techniques and experimental approaches that can now be applied to ecological and evolutionary vertebrate models such as sticklebacks and cichlid fish. We can anticipate that these new methods will increase the understanding of the genetic and epigenetic factors influencing adaptations and phenotypic variation in ecological settings. These new arrows in the methodological quiver of ecologist will drastically increase the understanding of the genetic basis of adaptive traits - leading to a further closing of the genotype-phenotype gap.


adaptation; cichlids; epigenetics; gene regulation; genome editing; model organisms; phenotypic variation

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