Working Group

Evolution and development of polyphenisms: pathways to innovation and diversification

PI(s): David Pfennig (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Armin Moczek (Indiana University-Bloomington)
Start Date: 27-Jun-2008
End Date: 26-Jun-2010
Keywords: biodiversity, evo-devo, evolutionary novelty

Polyphenism – the ability of a single genome to produce two or more discrete morphs in response to an environmental cue – has long been considered as an important facilitator of evolutionary novelty and diversification. Yet, whether and how polyphenic development actually promotes innovation and diversification remains poorly understood. This working group will explore the possible role of polyphenic development in the origins of novel traits and new species. Specifically, we will assemble a diverse group of researchers who study polyphenic development and its consequences in varied microbial, plant, and animal systems. This group will (1) identify, characterize, and synthesize the mechanisms by which polyphenic development might contribute to evolutionary innovation and diversification; (2) gather data from the literature to evaluate each mechanism; and (3) develop novel empirical approaches for future research. This collaboration is expected to produce a series of scholarly papers as well as an edited book. Ultimately, we seek to lay the foundation for a systematic evaluation of polyphenism's contribution to the origin and diversification of novel, complex phenotypes, which is one of the most challenging issues confronting evolutionary biologists.

Related products