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BMC Evol Biol. 2015 Jul 10;15:137. doi: 10.1186/s12862-015-0424-z.

Repeated evolution and the impact of evolutionary history on adaptation.

Author information

1
Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, 2052, Kensington, NSW, Australia. t.ord@unsw.edu.au.
2
Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, 2052, Kensington, NSW, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Whether natural selection can erase the imprint of past evolutionary history from phenotypes has been a topic of much debate. A key source of evidence that present-day selection can override historically contingent effects comes from the repeated evolution of similar adaptations in different taxa. Yet classic examples of repeated evolution are often among closely related taxa, suggesting the likelihood that similar adaptations evolve is contingent on the length of time separating taxa. To resolve this, we performed a meta-analysis of published reports of repeated evolution.

RESULTS:

Overall, repeated evolution was far more likely to be documented among closely related than distantly related taxa. However, not all forms of adaptation seemed to exhibit the same pattern. The evolution of similar behavior and physiology seemed frequent in distantly related and closely related taxa, while the repeated evolution of morphology was heavily skewed towards closely related taxa. Functionally redundant characteristics-alternative phenotypes that achieve the same functional outcome-also appeared less contingent.

CONCLUSIONS:

If the literature provides a reasonable reflection of the incidence of repeated evolution in nature, our findings suggest that natural selection can overcome contingent effects to an extent, but it depends heavily on the aspect of the phenotype targeted by selection.

PMID:
26156849
PMCID:
PMC4497378
DOI:
10.1186/s12862-015-0424-z
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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