ZFIN ID: ZDB-PUB-180421-2
Conserved but flexible modularity in the zebrafish skull: implications for craniofacial evolvability
Parsons, K.J., Son, Y.H., Crespel, A., Thambithurai, D., Killen, S., Harris, M.P., Albertson, R.C.
Date: 2018
Source: Proceedings. Biological sciences   285(1877): (Journal)
Registered Authors: Albertson, R. Craig, Harris, Matthew
Keywords: development, evolvability, integration, mutation
MeSH Terms:
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype*
  • Skull/anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish/anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish/genetics*
PubMed: 29669899 Full text @ Proc. Biol. Sci.
Morphological variation is the outward manifestation of development and provides fodder for adaptive evolution. Because of this contingency, evolution is often thought to be biased by developmental processes and functional interactions among structures, which are statistically detectable through forms of covariance among traits. This can take the form of substructures of integrated traits, termed modules, which together comprise patterns of variational modularity. While modularity is essential to an understanding of evolutionary potential, biologists currently have little understanding of its genetic basis and its temporal dynamics over generations. To address these open questions, we compared patterns of craniofacial modularity among laboratory strains, defined mutant lines and a wild population of zebrafish (Danio rerio). Our findings suggest that relatively simple genetic changes can have profound effects on covariance, without greatly affecting craniofacial shape. Moreover, we show that instead of completely deconstructing the covariance structure among sets of traits, mutations cause shifts among seemingly latent patterns of modularity suggesting that the skull may be predisposed towards a limited number of phenotypes. This new insight may serve to greatly increase the evolvability of a population by providing a range of 'preset' patterns of modularity that can appear readily and allow for rapid evolution.