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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 Oct 14;374(1783):20190064. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0064. Epub 2019 Aug 26.

Where did the pupa come from? The timing of juvenile hormone signalling supports homology between stages of hemimetabolous and holometabolous insects.

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Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Entomology, Ceske Budejovice 370 05, Czech Republic.


Insect metamorphosis boasts spectacular cases of postembryonic development when juveniles undergo massive morphogenesis before attaining the adult form and function; in moths or flies the larvae do not even remotely resemble their adult parents. A selective advantage of complete metamorphosis (holometaboly) is that within one species the two forms with different lifestyles can exploit diverse habitats. It was the environmental adaptation and specialization of larvae, primarily the delay and internalization of wing development, that eventually required an intermediate stage that we call a pupa. It is a long-held and parsimonious hypothesis that the holometabolous pupa evolved through modification of a final juvenile stage of an ancestor developing through incomplete metamorphosis (hemimetaboly). Alternative hypotheses see the pupa as an equivalent of all hemimetabolous moulting cycles (instars) collapsed into one, and consider any preceding holometabolous larval instars free-living embryos stalled in development. Discoveries on juvenile hormone signalling that controls metamorphosis grant new support to the former hypothesis deriving the pupa from a final pre-adult stage. The timing of expression of genes that repress and promote adult development downstream of hormonal signals supports homology between postembryonic stages of hemimetabolous and holometabolous insects. This article is part of the theme issue 'The evolution of complete metamorphosis'.


evolution; hormone receptor; juvenile hormone; metamorphosis; signal transduction; transcription factor

[Available on 2020-10-14]

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