News of the WeekEvolution

Spineless Fish and Dark Flies Prove Gene Regulation Crucial

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Science  18 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5960, pp. 1612
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5960.1612

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On page 1663 of this week's issue of Science and in last week's Science Express, two teams independently report that changes in regulatory DNA were responsible for an adaptation in natural populations of fish and insects. Each group has also pieced together details of the underlying genetic alterations in those animals. In one case, the same piece of regulatory DNA was lost in different freshwater fish populations, each time causing the loss of pelvic spines. In the other case, the darkening of a fruit fly took place through an accumulation of small mutations in regulatory DNA. Taken together with other discoveries of noncoding regions involved in evolution, researchers say there is now broad support that changes in regulatory DNA can generate morphological variation.