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Abstract Detail

Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Evo-Devo)

Specht, Chelsea [1].

Focusing in on Diversification: A phylogenetic approach to study the evolution of form and function in Zingiberales.

PERHAPS the most exciting finding of evo-devo studies in the last decade is the high degree of conservation in form across evolutionary history. Many evo-devo studies focused on model organisms address small genetic differences in sequence data and expression patterns that occur over large evolutionary distances, but do not directly address key evolutionary events that have lead to existing morphological diversity. While the development of new model organisms has indeed expanded the organismal breadth of the field, these studies do not immediately contribute to our understanding of the foremost factors contributing to genetic and organismal diversification. Here I discuss the utility of a phylogenetic approach to study the genetic differences underlying the evolution of diversity in form and function. Techniques developed in model systems are at the stage where they can now be expanded to study systems that are less genetically pliable yet represent interesting biological questions addressing the evolution of diversity. With a phylogenetic framework in place, the genetic causes of rapid radiations, adaptation and changes in form and function that respond to evolutionary pressures can all be addressed. I present an example where developmental genetic techniques have already started to lead us to better understand the mechanisms involved in the evolution of diversity in the tropical ginger plant order (Zingiberales). In the gingers, the development of new forms and novel structures has enabled certain species to evolve specialized pollination systems responsible for attracting specific pollinators and, over time, increasing their opportunities for niche expansion, genetic isolation and speciation. Such genetic modifications that lead to developmental changes responsible for altering interspecies interactions and/or adaptive success are crucial to understanding the root causes of biological diversification. Ultimately, the question is not what makes the diversity that surrounds us all the same, but what enables it to be so different.

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1 - University of California, Berkeley, Plant and Microbial Biology, 111 Koshland Hall MC 3102, Berkeley, California, 94720-3102, USA

floral evolution
developmental evolution
comparative floral morphology
pollination syndromes.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Topics
Session: 52-1
Location: 303/Bell Memorial Union
Date: Tuesday, August 1st, 2006
Time: 2:00 PM
Abstract ID:137

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