Meeting: Working Group

Relaxed Selection and Trait Loss in Evolution

Date1-May-2008 ~ 3-May-2008
ProjectRelaxed selection and trait loss in evolution
SummaryTraits that are adaptive in one environment often are less useful when the environment changes. We know little, however, about the evolutionary consequences of loss of function, particularly why some traits decay quickly while others persist. Our goal as a NESCent working group is to investigate the evolutionary dynamics of a trait or suite of traits when a significant source of natural selection is relaxed or removed. We will address these issues in broad taxonomic scope, considering factors at the genetic, developmental, and phenotypic/ecological levels. Our research will involve three phases. In the first we will develop a working conceptual scheme to describe and communicate the processes and factors involved in relaxed selection, vestigialization, and trait loss; this scheme will be continually revised throughout our collaboration. In the second and main phase of our research we will develop a theoretical framework that provides an integrative and predictive model of trait evolution in situations where function has been lost. We will draw patterns from a body of published and unpublished case studies in synergy with our development of theory, formalizing our results in mathematical models. In the third phase we will apply our findings to environmental and social issues such as exploitation of fisheries and loss of antibiotic resistance.