Do convergent developmental mechanisms underlie convergent phenotypes?
Convergence is a pervasive evolutionary process, affecting many aspects of phenotype and even genotype. Relatively little is known about convergence in developmental processes, however, nor about the degree to which convergence in development underlies convergence in anatomy. A switch in the ecology of sea urchins from feeding to nonfeeding larvae illustrates how convergence in development can be associated with convergence in anatomy. Comparisons to more distantly related taxa, however, suggest that this association may be limited to relatively close phylogenetic comparisons. Similarities in gene expression during development provide another window into the association between convergence in developmental processes and convergence in anatomy. Several well-studied transcription factors exhibit likely cases of convergent gene expression in distantly related animal phyla. Convergence in regulatory gene expression domains is probably more common than generally acknowledged, and can arise for several different reasons.
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