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Biology 2018, 7(1), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology7010020

Tinkering and the Origins of Heritable Anatomical Variation in Vertebrates

Department of Anatomy, Physiology & Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford OX313QX, UK
Received: 9 October 2017 / Revised: 16 February 2018 / Accepted: 18 February 2018 / Published: 26 February 2018
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Abstract

Evolutionary change comes from natural and other forms of selection acting on existing anatomical and physiological variants. While much is known about selection, little is known about the details of how genetic mutation leads to the range of heritable anatomical variants that are present within any population. This paper takes a systems-based view to explore how genomic mutation in vertebrate genomes works its way upwards, though changes to proteins, protein networks, and cell phenotypes to produce variants in anatomical detail. The evidence used in this approach mainly derives from analysing anatomical change in adult vertebrates and the protein networks that drive tissue formation in embryos. The former indicate which processes drive variation—these are mainly patterning, timing, and growth—and the latter their molecular basis. The paper then examines the effects of mutation and genetic drift on these processes, the nature of the resulting heritable phenotypic variation within a population, and the experimental evidence on the speed with which new variants can appear under selection. The discussion considers whether this speed is adequate to explain the observed rate of evolutionary change or whether other non-canonical, adaptive mechanisms of heritable mutation are needed. The evidence to hand suggests that they are not, for vertebrate evolution at least. View Full-Text
Keywords: anatomical change; evolutionary change; developmental process; embryogenesis; growth; mutation; patterning in embryos; protein network; systems biology; variation anatomical change; evolutionary change; developmental process; embryogenesis; growth; mutation; patterning in embryos; protein network; systems biology; variation
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Bard, J.B.L. Tinkering and the Origins of Heritable Anatomical Variation in Vertebrates. Biology 2018, 7, 20.

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