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Evolution of a Polyphenism by Genetic Accommodation

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Science  03 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5761, pp. 650-652
DOI: 10.1126/science.1118888

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Abstract

Polyphenisms are adaptations in which a genome is associated with discrete alternative phenotypes in different environments. Little is known about the mechanism by which polyphenisms originate. We show that a mutation in the juvenile hormone-regulatory pathway in Manduca sexta enables heat stress to reveal a hidden reaction norm of larval coloration. Selection for increased color change in response to heat stress resulted in the evolution of a larval color polyphenism and a corresponding change in hormonal titers through genetic accommodation. Evidently, mechanisms that regulate developmental hormones can mask genetic variation and act as evolutionary capacitors, facilitating the origin of novel adaptive phenotypes.

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