Letters to Nature

Nature 424, 935-938 (21 August 2003) | doi:10.1038/nature01768; Received 12 December 2002; Accepted 22 April 2003

Regulatory evolution of shavenbaby/ovo underlies multiple cases of morphological parallelism

Elio Sucena1,4,5, Isabelle Delon2,4, Isaac Jones3, François Payre2 & David L. Stern1

  1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  2. Centre de Biologie du Développement, Bâtiment 4R3, 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 cedex4 Toulouse, France
  3. Vanguard High School, 317 East 67th Street, New York, New York 10021, USA
  4. These authors contributed equally to this work
  5. Present address: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da quinta grande 6, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal

Correspondence to: David L. Stern1 Email: dstern@princeton.edu
The NCBI accession numbers for svb/ovo fragments from D. virilis and D. borealis are AY184285 and AY184286, respectively.

Cases of convergent evolution that involve changes in the same developmental pathway, called parallelism, provide evidence that a limited number of developmental changes are available to evolve a particular phenotype1. To our knowledge, in no case are the genetic changes underlying morphological convergence understood. However, morphological convergence is not generally assumed to imply developmental parallelism2. Here we investigate a case of convergence of larval morphology in insects and show that the loss of particular trichomes, observed in one species of the Drosophila melanogaster species group, has independently evolved multiple times in the distantly related D. virilis species group3. We present genetic and gene expression data showing that regulatory changes of the shavenbaby/ovo (svb/ovo) gene underlie all independent cases of this morphological convergence. Our results indicate that some developmental regulators might preferentially accumulate evolutionary changes and that morphological parallelism might therefore be more common than previously appreciated.