Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology
Journal or Book Title
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Developmental processes are foundational to clarifying the causes of convergent evolution. Here, we show how a key convergently evolving trait is slowly “acquired” in growing turtles. Adaptive morphological change tends to originate late in turtle ontogeny, owing to design constraints imposed by the shell. We investigated this trend by examining derived patterns of shell formation associated with the multiple (≥ 8) origins of shell closure (kinesis) in smallbodied turtles. Using box turtles as a model, we demonstrate that the flexible hinge joint required for shell kinesis differentiates gradually and via extensive repatterning of shell tissue. Disproportionate changes in shell shape and size substantiate that this transformation is a delayed ontogenetic response (3-5 years post-hatching) to structural alterations that arise in embryogenesis. These findings exemplify that the translation of genotype to phenotype may reach far beyond embryonic life stages. Thus, the temporal scope for developmental origins of adaptive morphological change might be broader than generally understood. We propose that delayed trait differentiation via tissue repatterning might facilitate phenotypic diversification and innovation that otherwise would not arise due to developmental constraints.
Cordero, Gerardo A.; Quinteros, Kevin; and Janzen, Fredric J., "Delayed trait development and the convergent evolution of shell kinesis in turtles" (2018). Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology Publications. 305.