Evolution of a polyphenism

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hornworm_morphs_tease.jpg

Here's some very cool news: scientists have directly observed the evolution of a complex, polygenic, polyphenic trait by genetic assimilation and accommodation in the laboratory. This is important, because it is simultaneously yet another demonstration of the fact of evolution, and an exploration of mechanisms of evolution—showing that evolution is more sophisticated than changes in the coding sequences of individual genes spreading through a population, but is also a consequence of the accumulation of masked variation, synergistic interactions between different alleles and the environment, and perhaps most importantly, changes in gene regulation.

Unfortunately, it's also an example of some extremely rarefied terminology that is very precisely used in genetic and developmental labs everywhere, but probably makes most people's eyes glaze over and wonder what the fuss is all about. I'll try to give a simple introduction to those peculiar words, and explain why the evolution of a polyphenic pigment pattern in a caterpillar is a fascinating and significant result.

Continue reading "Evolution of a polyphenism" (on Pharyngula)

7 Comments

“The Thumb” is a grand combination of science watchdog, psuedoscience criticism, science discussion, and science journalism.

While clear, succinct, and exciting reports from the leading edge of evolutionary science such as this one rarely initiate the lengthy and vociferous comment threads which some of us find so stimulating (or, at the least, entertaining), they remain works of art in themselves and are deeply appreciated.

Thanks, PZ!

Bets on how long before we hear that “It’s still a hornworm!”?

Great article and great explanation. Something even a simple physicist such as I can understand. Thanks.

Wow. That is really, really good. No, better than that. Best post I’ve seen. Forget politics, this is science! I want to go back and get my PhD and work at a University.

Bets on how long before we hear that “It’s still a hornworm!”?

Only until it turns into a sphynx moth.

BWE wrote:

Wow. That is really, really good. No, better than that. Best post I’ve seen. Forget politics, this is science! I want to go back and get my PhD and work at a University.

Careful there – once the bugs get hold of you, they never let go! You think you’re all set, working all day, collecting your paychecks and enjoying your lack of homework at night, and next thing you know, you’re a fortysomething grad student, breeding moths or crickets or flies, and spending your summers in the field and the rest of the year squeezing in experiments while teaching introductory organismal lab!

Got a monkey on my back … No, wait. My mistake. It’s a paper wasp.

Yeah Julie much easier to go to a bible school hear de word O’de Lord start a mega-church, fly around the country in a private jet and live it up at the mansion. All you need is rat cunning and glibness, no edikation needed. Where did the word parasite come from again ?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on February 8, 2006 4:44 PM.

Science, Just Science was the previous entry in this blog.

Ohio Board’s Science Advisory Committee Disavows Creationist Science Standard is the next entry in this blog.

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