Novel genes, rather than regulatory DNA, underlie the evolution of morphological traits, according to research published today (Nov. 17) in __PLoS Biology__. The new linkurl:study; reports that genes found in simple freshwater animals -- but not in any other evolutionary lineage -- can drive changes in body plan, and stokes the flames of a long-standing debate among evolutionary developmental biologists. "This is the first study that puts together comparative molecular evolution data and experimental data into a cohesive case for this mode of evolution," Günter Wagner, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Yale University, who was not involved in the research, told __The Scientist__. The underlying genetic basis of morphological adaptation has been hotly debated in the evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) field. On the one side, many argue that innovations in body plans stem from modifications in the spatial and temporal activity of well-conserved linkurl:regulatory DNA,; known as cis elements. Others,...

Hydra tentacle formation during budding

transcriptomeorphanImage courtesy of PLoS Biology

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