Plant Diversity ›› 2012, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (3): 222-230.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1143.2012.12019

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Evolutionary Innovation Based on Co-option and Integration of Developmental Modules

 ZHANG  Yan, ZHU  Zhu, YANG  Ji   

  1. Center for Evolutionary Biology, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China
  • Received:2012-02-10 Online:2012-06-25 Published:2012-04-14


The origin and diversification of evolutionary novelties is one of the key issues in evolutionary developmental biology. Comparative analyses of the genetic mechanisms controlling early development of multicellular organisms have revealed that many morphological traits that are shared between distantly related organisms were controlled by conserved gene regulatory machinery (deep homology). The evolution of novel morphological traits often involves the cooption of preexisting genes and/or genetic regulatory circuits. Developmental gene regulatory networks are structurally and functionally modular. The property of modularity not only allows to alter development through dissociation and cooption of individual modules, but also enhances the evolvability of the network. Studying the evolutionary dynamics of gene networks and the evolution of development will extend our understanding of the mechanistic relationships between the processes of individual development and phenotypic change during evolution.

Key words: Developmental modules, Co-option, Evolutionary innovation

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