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Species diversity vs. morphological disparity in the light of evolutionary developmental biology
Minelli, A. (2016). Species diversity vs. morphological disparity in the light of evolutionary developmental biology. Ann. Bot. 117(5): 781-794. https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcv134
In: Annals of Botany. Academic Press: London. ISSN 0305-7364; e-ISSN 1095-8290, more
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Author keywords
    Phenotypic plasticity, evolvability, generative key innovation, heteroblasty, heterochrony, large genera, life cycle complexity, modularity, permissive key innovation, species diversity, species robustness.

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    Background: Two indicators of a clade’s success are its diversity (number of included species) and its disparity (extent of morphospace occupied by its members). Many large genera show high diversity with low disparity, while others such as Euphorbia and Drosophila are highly diverse but also exhibit high disparity. The largest genera are often characterized by key innovations that often, but not necessarily, coincide with their diagnostic apomorphies. In terms of their contribution to speciation, apomorphies are either permissive (e.g. flightlessness) or generative (e.g. nectariferous spurs). Scope: Except for Drosophila, virtually no genus among those with the highest diversity or disparity includes species currently studied as model species in developmental genetics or evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). An evo-devo approach is, however, potentially important to understand how diversity and disparity could rapidly increase in the largest genera currently accepted by taxonomists. The most promising directions for future research and a set of key questions to be addressed are presented in this review. Conclusions: From an evo-devo perspective, the evolution of clades with high diversity and/or disparity can be addressed from three main perspectives: (1) evolvability, in terms of release from previous constraints and of the presence of genetic or developmental conditions favouring multiple parallel occurrences of a given evolutionary transition and its reversal; (2) phenotypic plasticity as a facilitator of speciation; and (3) modularity, heterochrony and a coupling between the complexity of the life cycle and the evolution of diversity and disparity in a clade. This simple preliminary analysis suggests a set of topics that deserve priority for scrutiny, including the possible role of saltational evolution in the origination of high diversity and/or disparity, the predictability of morphological evolution following release from a former constraint, and the extent and the possible causes of a positive correlation between diversity and disparity and the complexity of the life cycle.

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