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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Feb 5;372(1713). pii: 20150486.

The genetic and molecular architecture of phenotypic diversity in sticklebacks.

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Divisions of Basic Sciences and Human Biology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.
Department of Fish Ecology and Evolution, Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology, 6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland.


A major goal of evolutionary biology is to identify the genotypes and phenotypes that underlie adaptation to divergent environments. Stickleback fish, including the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and the ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), have been at the forefront of research to uncover the genetic and molecular architecture that underlies phenotypic diversity and adaptation. A wealth of quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping studies in sticklebacks have provided insight into long-standing questions about the distribution of effect sizes during adaptation as well as the role of genetic linkage in facilitating adaptation. These QTL mapping studies have also provided a basis for the identification of the genes that underlie phenotypic diversity. These data have revealed that mutations in regulatory elements play an important role in the evolution of phenotypic diversity in sticklebacks. Genetic and molecular studies in sticklebacks have also led to new insights on the genetic basis of repeated evolution and suggest that the same loci are involved about half of the time when the same phenotypes evolve independently. When the same locus is involved, selection on standing variation and repeated mutation of the same genes have both contributed to the evolution of similar phenotypes in independent populations.This article is part of the themed issue 'Evo-devo in the genomics era, and the origins of morphological diversity'.


Gasterosteus aculeatus; Pungitius pungitius; genetics of adaptation; quantitative trait locus; repeated evolution

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