Geometric morphometrics is the statistical analysis of form based on Cartesian landmark coordinates. After separating shape from overall size, position, and orientation of the landmark configurations, the resulting Procrustes shape coordinates can be used for statistical analysis. Kendall shape space, the mathematical space induced by the shape coordinates, is a metric space that can be approximated locally by a Euclidean tangent space. Thus, notions of distance (similarity) between shapes or of the length and direction of developmental and evolutionary trajectories can be meaningfully assessed in this space. Results of statistical techniques that preserve these convenient properties—such as principal component analysis, multivariate regression, or partial least squares analysis—can be visualized as actual shapes or shape deformations. The Procrustes distance between a shape and its relabeled reflection is a measure of bilateral asymmetry. Shape space can be extended to form space by augmenting the shape coordinates with the natural logarithm of Centroid Size, a measure of size in geometric morphometrics that is uncorrelated with shape for small isotropic landmark variation. The thin-plate spline interpolation function is the standard tool to compute deformation grids and 3D visualizations. It is also central to the estimation of missing landmarks and to the semilandmark algorithm, which permits to include outlines and surfaces in geometric morphometric analysis. The powerful visualization tools of geometric morphometrics and the typically large amount of shape variables give rise to a specific exploratory style of analysis, allowing the identification and quantification of previously unknown shape features.
Linear discriminant analysis (LDA) is a multivariate classification technique frequently applied to morphometric data in various biomedical disciplines. Canonical variate analysis (CVA), the generalization of LDA for multiple groups, is often used in the exploratory style of an ordination technique (a low-dimensional representation of the data). In the rare case when all groups have the same covariance matrix, maximum likelihood classification can be based on these linear functions. Both LDA and CVA require full-rank covariance matrices, which is usually not the case in modern morphometrics. When the number of variables is close to the number of individuals, groups appear separated in a CVA plot even if they are samples from the same population. Hence, reliable classification and assessment of group separation require many more organisms than variables. A simple alternative to CVA is the projection of the data onto the principal components of the group averages (between-group PCA). In contrast to CVA, these axes are orthogonal and can be computed even when the data are not of full rank, such as for Procrustes shape coordinates arising in samples of any size, and when covariance matrices are heterogeneous. In evolutionary quantitative genetics, the selection gradient is identical to the coefficient vector of a linear discriminant function between the populations before vs. after selection. When the measured variables are Procrustes shape coordinates, discriminant functions and selection gradients are vectors in shape space and can be visualized as shape deformations. Except for applications in quantitative genetics and in classification, however, discriminant functions typically offer no interpretation as biological factors.
Short-term evolutionary potential depends on the additive genetic variance in the population. The additive variance is often measured as heritability, the fraction of the total phenotypic variance that is additive. Heritability is thus a common measure of evolutionary potential. An alternative is to measure evolutionary potential as expected proportional change under a unit strength of selection. This yields the mean-scaled additive variance as a measure of evolvability. Houle in Genetics 130:195–204, (1992) showed that these two ways of scaling additive variance are often inconsistent and can lead to different conclusions as to what traits are more evolvable. Here, we explore this relation in more detail through a literature review, and through theoretical arguments. We show that the correlation between heritability and evolvability is essentially zero, and we argue that this is likely due to inherent positive correlations between the additive variance and other components of phenotypic variance. This means that heritabilities are unsuitable as measures of evolutionary potential in natural populations. More generally we argue that scaling always involves non-trivial assumptions, and that a lack of awareness of these assumptions constitutes a systemic error in the field of evolutionary biology.
Organisms represent a complex arrangement of anatomical structures and individuated parts that must maintain functional associations through development. This integration of variation between functionally related body parts and the modular organization of development are fundamental determinants of their evolvability. This is because integration results in the expression of coordinated variation that can create preferred directions for evolutionary change, while modularity enables variation in a group of traits or regions to accumulate without deleterious effects on other aspects of the organism. Using our own work on both model systems (e.g., lab mice, avians) and natural populations of rodents and primates, we explore in this paper the relationship between patterns of phenotypic covariation and the developmental determinants of integration that those patterns are assumed to reflect. We show that integration cannot be reliably studied through phenotypic covariance patterns alone and argue that the relationship between phenotypic covariation and integration is obscured in two ways. One is the superimposition of multiple determinants of covariance in complex systems and the other is the dependence of covariation structure on variances in covariance-generating processes. As a consequence, we argue that the direct study of the developmental determinants of integration in model systems is necessary to fully interpret patterns of covariation in natural populations, to link covariation patterns to the processes that generate them, and to understand their significance for evolutionary explanation.
Many bivalvian mollusks have a sperm-transmitted mitochondrial genome (M), along with the standard egg-transmitted one (F). The phenomenon, known as doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI) of mtDNA, is the only known case in which biparental inheritance of a cytoplasmic genome is the rule rather than the exception. In the mussel Mytilus sperm mitochondria disperse randomly among blastomeres in female embryos, but form an aggregate and stay in the same blastomere in male embryos. In adults, somatic tissues of both sexes are dominated by the F genome. Sperm contains only the M genome and eggs the F (and perhaps traces of M). A female produces mostly daughters, mostly sons, or both sexes in about equal numbers, irrespective of its mate. Thus maleness and M mtDNA fate are tightly linked and under maternal control. Hybridization and triploidization affect the former but not the latter, which suggests that the two are not causally linked. Gene content and arrangement are the same in conspecific F and M genomes, but primary sequence has diverged from 20 % to 40 %, depending on species. The two genomes differ at the control region (CR). Synonymous substitutions accumulate faster in the M than the F genome and non-synonymous even faster. Expression studies indicate that the M genome is active only at spermatogenesis. These observations suggest that the M genome is under a more relaxed selective constraint than the F. Some mytilid species carry, in low frequencies, sperm-transmitted mtDNAs whose primary sequence is of the F type and the CR is an F/M mosaic (“masculinized” genomes). In venerids sperm mitochondria behavior, M genome fate and sex determination are as in mytilids. In unionids the M genome also evolves faster than the F and F/M sequence divergence reaches 50 %. The identification of F-specific and M-specific open reading frames in non-coding regions of unionids and mytilids, in conjunction with the CR’s mosaic structure of masculinized genomes, suggest that the mitochondrial genomes of species with DUI carry sequences that affect their transmission route. A model that incorporates these findings is presented in this review.
The last two decades have seen an explosion in research analysing cultural change as a Darwinian evolutionary process. Here I provide an overview of the theory of cultural evolution, including its intellectual history, major theoretical tenets and methods, key findings, and prominent criticisms and controversies. ‘Culture’ is defined as socially transmitted information. Cultural evolution is the theory that this socially transmitted information evolves in the manner laid out by Darwin in The Origin of Species, i.e. it comprises a system of variation, differential fitness and inheritance. Cultural evolution is not, however, neo-Darwinian, in that many of the details of genetic evolution may not apply, such as particulate inheritance and random mutation. Following a brief history of this idea, I review theoretical and empirical studies of cultural microevolution, which entails both selection-like processes wherein some cultural variants are more likely to be acquired and transmitted than others, plus transformative processes that alter cultural information during transmission. I also review how phylogenetic methods have been used to reconstruct cultural macroevolution, including the evolution of languages, technology and social organisation. Finally, I discuss recent controversies and debates, including the extent to which culture is proximate or ultimate, the relative role of selective and transformative processes in cultural evolution, the basis of cumulative cultural evolution, the evolution of large-scale human cooperation, and whether social learning is learned or innate. I conclude by highlighting the value of using evolutionary methods to study culture for both the social and biological sciences.
Understanding the rate at which new species form is a key question in studying the evolution of life on earth. Here we review our current understanding of speciation rates, focusing on studies based on the fossil record, phylogenies, and mathematical models. We find that speciation rates estimated from these different studies can be dramatically different: some studies find that new species form quickly and often, while others find that new species form much less frequently. We suggest that instead of being contradictory, differences in speciation rates across different scales can be reconciled by a common model. Under the “ephemeral speciation model”, speciation is very common and very rapid but the new species produced almost never persist. Evolutionary studies should therefore focus on not only the formation but also the persistence of new species.
Morphological integration refers to the modular structuring of inter-trait relationships in an organism, which could bias the direction and rate of morphological change, either constraining or facilitating evolution along certain dimensions of the morphospace. Therefore, the description of patterns and magnitudes of morphological integration and the analysis of their evolutionary consequences are central to understand the evolution of complex traits. Here we analyze morphological integration in the skull of several mammalian orders, addressing the following questions: are there common patterns of inter-trait relationships? Are these patterns compatible with hypotheses based on shared development and function? Do morphological integration patterns and magnitudes vary in the same way across groups? We digitized more than 3,500 specimens spanning 15 mammalian orders, estimated the correspondent pooled within-group correlation and variance/covariance matrices for 35 skull traits and compared those matrices among the orders. We also compared observed patterns of integration to theoretical expectations based on common development and function. Our results point to a largely shared pattern of inter-trait correlations, implying that mammalian skull diversity has been produced upon a common covariance structure that remained similar for at least 65 million years. Comparisons with a rodent genetic variance/covariance matrix suggest that this broad similarity extends also to the genetic factors underlying phenotypic variation. In contrast to the relative constancy of inter-trait correlation/covariance patterns, magnitudes varied markedly across groups. Several morphological modules hypothesized from shared development and function were detected in the mammalian taxa studied. Our data provide evidence that mammalian skull evolution can be viewed as a history of inter-module parcellation, with the modules themselves being more clearly marked in those lineages with lower overall magnitude of integration. The implication of these findings is that the main evolutionary trend in the mammalian skull was one of decreasing the constraints to evolution by promoting a more modular architecture.
Until 30 years ago, the emphasis on reproductive costs for males was mainly on costs related to mate searching, courtship and fighting with rival males. However, costs for males are substantial and varied and often resemble the more thoroughly studied female reproductive costs. Costs can be referred to as trade-off costs, where investment in reproductive activity comes at the expense of another important activity or fitness component. Investment in reproduction at the expense of longevity and future reproduction is the ultimate cost, because it affects fitness directly. In contrast, flawed performance (e.g., of the immune system) is perceived as a mechanistic trade-off, because it affects fitness indirectly through a mediator (i.e., parasites). Finally, direct costs refer to direct measurements of the energy expenditure during involvement in reproduction-related activities. Both direct and mechanistic trade-off costs often result in decreased longevity compared to unmated males (an ultimate cost). Males incur costs during different reproductive phases: before copulation, when producing sperm, while searching for, courting and copulating with females, and subsequently when guarding females or taking care of offspring. This synthesis follows previous pioneering reviews addressing specific aspects of male costs, but strives to summarize all known male reproductive cost types more comprehensively, including their classification. We suggest several directions for targeted future research. While costs for males have been fairly well described, it is now necessary to uncover the ecological and evolutionary factors responsible for differences between closely related species and systems and to better link between directly-measured costs, mechanistic trade-off costs and ultimate trade-off costs.
The origin of novelty is a critical subject for evolutionary biologists. Early geneticists speculated about the sudden appearance of new species via special macromutations, epitomized by Goldschmidt’s infamous “hopeful monster”. Although these ideas were easily dismissed by the insights of the Modern Synthesis, a lingering fascination with the possibility of sudden, dramatic change has persisted. Recent work on hybridization and gene exchange suggests an underappreciated mechanism for the sudden appearance of evolutionary novelty that is entirely consistent with the principles of modern population genetics. Genetic recombination in hybrids can produce transgressive phenotypes, “monstrous” phenotypes beyond the range of parental populations. Transgressive phenotypes can be products of epistatic interactions or additive effects of multiple recombined loci. We compare several epistatic and additive models of transgressive segregation in hybrids and find that they are special cases of a general, classic quantitative genetic model. The Dobzhansky-Muller model predicts “hopeless” monsters, sterile and inviable transgressive phenotypes. The Bateson model predicts “hopeful” monsters with fitness greater than either parental population. The complementation model predicts both. Transgressive segregation after hybridization can rapidly produce novel phenotypes by recombining multiple loci simultaneously. Admixed populations will also produce many similar recombinant phenotypes at the same time, increasing the probability that recombinant “hopeful monsters” will establish true-breeding evolutionary lineages. Recombination is not the only (or even most common) process generating evolutionary novelty, but might be the most credible mechanism for sudden appearance of new forms.
Approaches to macroevolution require integration of its two fundamental components, i.e. the origin and the sorting of variation, in a hierarchical framework. Macroevolution occurs in multiple currencies that are only loosely correlated, notably taxonomic diversity, morphological disparity, and functional variety. The origin of variation within this conceptual framework is increasingly understood in developmental terms, with the semi-hierarchical structure of gene regulatory networks (GRNs, used here in a broad sense incorporating not just the genetic circuitry per se but the factors controlling the timing and location of gene expression and repression), the non-linear relation between magnitude of genetic change and the phenotypic results, the evolutionary potential of co-opting existing GRNs, and developmental responsiveness to nongenetic signals (i.e. epigenetics and plasticity), all requiring modification of standard microevolutionary models, and rendering difficult any simple definition of evolutionary novelty. The developmental factors underlying macroevolution create anisotropic probabilities—i.e., an uneven density distribution—of evolutionary change around any given phenotypic starting point, and the potential for coordinated changes among traits that can accommodate change via epigenetic mechanisms. From this standpoint, “punctuated equilibrium” and “phyletic gradualism” simply represent two cells in a matrix of evolutionary models of phenotypic change, and the origin of trends and evolutionary novelty are not simply functions of ecological opportunity. Over long timescales, contingency becomes especially important, and can be viewed in terms of macroevolutionary lags (the temporal separation between the origin of a trait or clade and subsequent diversification); such lags can arise by several mechanisms: as geological or phylogenetic artifacts, or when diversifications require synergistic interactions among traits, or between traits and external events. The temporal and spatial patterns of the origins of evolutionary novelties are a challenge to macroevolutionary theory; individual events can be described retrospectively, but a general model relating development, genetics, and ecology is needed. An accompanying paper (Jablonski in Evol Biol 2017) reviews diversity dynamics and the sorting of variation, with some general conclusions.
Approaches to macroevolution require integration of its two fundamental components, within a hierarchical framework. Following a companion paper on the origin of variation, I here discuss sorting within an evolutionary hierarchy. Species sorting—sometimes termed species selection in the broad sense, meaning differential origination and extinction owing to intrinsic biological properties—can be split into strict-sense species selection, in which rate differentials are governed by emergent, species-level traits such as geographic range size, and effect macroevolution, in which rates are governed by organism-level traits such as body size; both processes can create hitchhiking effects, indirectly causing the proliferation or decline of other traits. Several methods can operationalize the concept of emergence, so that rigorous separation of these processes is increasingly feasible. A macroevolutionary tradeoff, underlain by the intrinsic traits that influence evolutionary dynamics, causes speciation and extinction rates to covary in many clades, resulting in evolutionary volatility of some clades and more subdued behavior of others; the few clades that break the tradeoff can achieve especially prolific diversification. In addition to intrinsic biological traits at multiple levels, extrinsic events can drive the waxing and waning of clades, and the interaction of traits and events are difficult but important to disentangle. Evolutionary trends can arise in many ways, and at any hierarchical level; descriptive models can be fitted to clade trajectories in phenotypic or functional spaces, but they may not be diagnostic regarding processes, and close attention must be paid to both leading and trailing edges of apparent trends. Biotic interactions can have negative or positive effects on taxonomic diversity within a clade, but cannot be readily extrapolated from the nature of such interactions at the organismic level. The relationships among macroevolutionary currencies through time (taxonomic richness, morphologic disparity, functional variety) are crucial for understanding the nature of evolutionary diversification. A novel approach to diversity-disparity analysis shows that taxonomic diversifications can lag behind, occur in concert with, or precede, increases in disparity. Some overarching issues relating to both the origin and sorting of clades and phenotypes include the macroevolutionary role of mass extinctions, the potential differences between plant and animal macroevolution, whether macroevolutionary processes have changed through geologic time, and the growing human impact on present-day macroevolution. Many challenges remain, but progress is being made on two of the key ones: (a) the integration of variation-generating mechanisms and the multilevel sorting processes that act on that variation, and (b) the integration of paleontological and neontological approaches to historical biology.
Insights into morphological diversification can be obtained from the ways the species of a clade occupy morphospace. Projecting a phylogeny into morphospace provides estimates of evolutionary trajectories as lineages diversified information that can be used to infer the dynamics of evolutionary processes that produced patterns of morphospace occupation. We present here a large-scale investigation into evolution of morphological variation in the skull of caecilian amphibians, a major clade of vertebrates. Because caecilians are limbless, predominantly fossorial animals, diversification of their skull has occurred within a framework imposed by the functional demands of head-first burrowing. We examined cranial shape in 141 species, over half of known species, using X-ray computed tomography and geometric morphometrics. Mapping an existing phylogeny into the cranial morphospace to estimate the history of morphological change (phylomorphospace), we find a striking pattern: most species occupy distinct clusters in cranial morphospace that closely correspond to the main caecilian clades, and each cluster is separated by unoccupied morphospace. The empty spaces in shape space are unlikely to be caused entirely by extinction or incomplete sampling. The main caecilian clades have different amounts of morphological disparity, but neither clade age nor number of species account for this variation. Cranial shape variation is clearly linked to phyletic divergence, but there is also homoplasy, which is attributed to extrinsic factors associated with head-first digging: features of caecilian crania that have been previously argued to correlate with differential microhabitat use and burrowing ability, such as subterminal and terminal mouths, degree of temporal fenestration (stegokrotaphy/zygokrotaphy), and eyes covered by bone, have evolved and many combinations occur in modern species. We find evidence of morphological convergence in cranial shape, among species that have eyes covered by bone, resulting in a narrow bullet-shaped head. These results reveal a complex history, including early expansion of morphospace and both divergent and convergent evolution resulting in the diversity we observe today.
Changes in patterns and magnitudes of integration may influence the ability of a species to respond to selection. Consequently, modularity has often been linked to the concept of evolvability, but their relationship has rarely been tested empirically. One possible explanation is the lack of analytical tools to compare patterns and magnitudes of integration among diverse groups that explicitly relate these aspects to the quantitative genetics framework. We apply such framework here using the multivariate response to selection equation to simulate the evolutionary behavior of several mammalian orders in terms of their flexibility, evolvability and constraints in the skull. We interpreted these simulation results in light of the integration patterns and magnitudes of the same mammalian groups, described in a companion paper. We found that larger magnitudes of integration were associated with a blur of the modules in the skull and to larger portions of the total variation explained by size variation, which in turn can exert a strong evolutionary constraint, thus decreasing the evolutionary flexibility. Conversely, lower overall magnitudes of integration were associated with distinct modules in the skull, to smaller fraction of the total variation associated with size and, consequently, to weaker constraints and more evolutionary flexibility. Flexibility and constraints are, therefore, two sides of the same coin and we found them to be quite variable among mammals. Neither the overall magnitude of morphological integration, the modularity itself, nor its consequences in terms of constraints and flexibility, were associated with absolute size of the organisms, but were strongly associated with the proportion of the total variation in skull morphology captured by size. Therefore, the history of the mammalian skull is marked by a trade-off between modularity and evolvability. Our data provide evidence that, despite the stasis in integration patterns, the plasticity in the magnitude of integration in the skull had important consequences in terms of evolutionary flexibility of the mammalian lineages.
Australia’s native wild dog, the dingo (Canis dingo), is threatened by hybridization with feral or domestic dogs. In this study we provide the first comprehensive three dimensional geometric morphometric evaluation of cranial shape for dingoes, dogs and their hybrids. We introduce a novel framework to assess whether modularity facilitates, or constrains, cranial shape change in hybridization. Our results show that hybrid and pure dingo morphology overlaps greatly, meaning that hybrids cannot be reliably distinguished from dingoes on the basis of cranial metrics. We find that dingo morphology is resistant, with observed hybrids exhibiting morphology closer to the dingo than to the parent group dog. We also find that that hybridization with dog breeds does not push the dingo cranial morphology towards the wolf phenotype. Disparity and integration analyses on the ten recovered modules provided empirical support for modularity facilitating shape change over short evolutionary time scales. However, our results show that this is may not be the case in hybridization events, which were not influenced by module integration or disparity levels. We conclude that although hybridization events may introduce breed dog DNA to the dingo population, the native cranial morphology, and therefore likely the feeding eco-niche, of the dingo population is resistant to change. Our results have implications for conservation and management of dingoes and, more broadly, for the influence of integration patterns over ecological time scales in relation to selection pressure.
Multiple diversification rate shifts explain uneven clade richness in muroid rodents. Previous muroid studies have shown that extrinsic factors, notwithstanding ecological opportunity, are poor predictors of clade diversity. Here, we use a 297-muroid species chronogram that is sampled proportional to total clade diversity, along with various trait-dependent diversification approaches to investigate the association between diversification rates with intrinsic attributes—diet, habitat, body mass, and relative tail length. We found some association between both dietary specialization and body mass, as well as between habitat specialization with relative tail lengths using phylogenetic analyses of variance. However, there was no significant association between diversification rates with the evolution of these traits in muroid rodents. We also show that several of the state-dependent diversification approaches are highly susceptible to Type I error—a result that is in accordance with recent criticisms of these methods. Finally, we discuss several potential causes for the lack of association between the examined trait data with diversification rates, ranging from methodological biases (e.g. method conservativism) to biology (e.g. behavioral plasticity and ecological opportunism of muroid rodents).
Much is known about the genetic variance in certain components of metabolism, most notably resting and maximum metabolic rate. This is in stark contrast to the lack of information on genetic variance in the metabolic rate of individuals that feed and express routine activity, and how this rate correlates with other components of the energy budget or life history traits. Here we quantify genetic variance in metabolic rate (MR) under such conditions, as well as food consumption, juvenile somatic growth rate and age at maturation under ad lib food availability in a set of 10 clones of Daphnia magna from a natural population. Broad sense evolvabilities (0.16 0.56%) were on the same order of magnitude as those typically observed for physiological and life history traits, and suggest that all these traits have the potential to evolve within this population. We did not find support for the previously hypothesized positive genetic correlation between metabolic rate and growth rate. Rather, the patterns of genetic correlations suggest that genetic variance in food consumption is the single most influential trait shaping somatic growth rate, but that additional variance in growth can be explained by considering the joint effect of consumption and MR. The genetic variance in consumption and MR also translated into genetic variance in age at maturation, creating a direct link between these energy budget components and a life history trait with strong fitness effects. Moreover, a weak positive correlation between MR and food consumption suggests the presence of substantial amounts of independent genetic control of these traits, consistent with results obtained using genomic approaches.
The Tree of Life (ToL) has been of central importance in the biological sciences, usually understood as a model or a metaphor, and portrayed in various graphical forms to summarize the history of life as a single diagram. If it is seen as a mathematical construct-a rooted graph theoretical tree or, as more recently viewed, a directed network [ Network of Life (NoL)]-then its proper visualization is not feasible, for both epistemological and technical reasons. As an overview included in this study demonstrates, published ToLs and NoLs are extremely diverse in appearance and content, and they suffer from inevitable bias towards particular groups, or are restricted to a single major taxon. Metaphorical trees are even less useful for the purpose, because ramification is the only property of botanical trees that may be interpreted in an evolutionary or phylogenetic context. This paper argues that corals, as suggested by Darwin in his early notebooks, are superior to trees as metaphors, and may also be used as mathematical models. A coral diagram is useful for portraying past and present life because it is suitable: (1) to illustrate bifurcations and anastomoses, (2) to depict species richness of taxa proportionately, (3) to show chronology, extinct taxa and major evolutionary innovations, (4) to express taxonomic continuity, (5) to expand particulars due to its self-similarity, and (6) to accommodate a genealogy-based, rank-free classification. This paper is supplemented with a figure, The Coral of Life (CoL), which is, to the author's knowledge, the first attempt to combine all of the above features in a single diagram for the entirety of life, thus serving as a prototype for further analysis and improvement. The discussion is partly historical: references to classical and modern writings help the reader to understand how biological thinking and methods of visualization have evolved to reach this achievement.