Convergent phenotypic evolution often results from similar genetic changes in independent species by a process known as parallel evolution.
Sometimes, convergent evolution results from the evolution of a genetic change that is inherited from an ancestral population or from hybridization between species, which, in this Review, are collectively called collateral evolution.
Whole-genome sequencing of experimental-evolution populations has provided compelling evidence for the importance of parallel evolution, and parallel evolution at specific genes has also been documented between highly divergent taxa.
Collateral evolution by ancestry is likely to be common in species in which a single large population is surrounded by multiple geographical isolates. Collateral evolution by hybridization has been documented only recently and is likely to be widespread in nature.
Multiple factors contribute to parallel evolution; it seems that genes which control key developmental decisions and those that interact most immediately with the environment are most likely to contribute to this type of evolution.
The evolution of phenotypic similarities between species, known as convergence, illustrates that populations can respond predictably to ecological challenges. Convergence often results from similar genetic changes, which can emerge in two ways: the evolution of similar or identical mutations in independent lineages, which is termed parallel evolution; and the evolution in independent lineages of alleles that are shared among populations, which I call collateral genetic evolution. Evidence for parallel and collateral evolution has been found in many taxa, and an emerging hypothesis is that they result from the fact that mutations in some genetic targets minimize pleiotropic effects while simultaneously maximizing adaptation. If this proves correct, then the molecular changes underlying adaptation might be more predictable than has been appreciated previously.
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The author thanks V. Orgogozo and the anonymous referees for many suggestions that improved this Review. He also thanks P. Andolfatto, O. Tenaillon and B. Gaut for providing images and raw data from their published work.
The author declares no competing financial interests.
The potential evolutionary success of a genotype, defined as the reproductive success or the proportion of genes that an individual leaves in the gene pool of the next generation in a population. The individuals with the greatest fitness leave the highest number of surviving offspring.
Interbreeding of individuals from genetically distinct populations, regardless of the taxonomic status of the populations.
Loci consisting of two or more genes that are transcribed as a unit and expressed in a coordinated manner.
In the context of quantitative genetics: any genetic interaction in which the combined phenotypic effect of two or more loci is less than (negative epistasis) or greater than (positive epistasis) the sum of the effects at each individual locus.
- Evolutionary trajectories
In the context of this Review: the series of mutations substituted during adaptation.
Thin, cuticular and non-sensory processes that are secreted by individual cells.
Regulatory DNA elements that usually bind several transcription factors; they can activate transcription from a promoter at a great distance and in an orientation-independent manner.
Genes in the same organism that have evolved from a gene duplication, usually with a subsequent, and sometimes subtle, divergence of function.
Pertaining to a gene having multiple developmental roles or to a mutation having multiple phenotypic effects.
Determination of an exact DNA sequence by comparison with a known reference.
- cis-regulatory loci
Genetic loci containing transcription factor-binding sites and other non-coding DNA elements that are sufficient to activate transcription in a defined spatial and/or temporal expression domain.
A mutagenic process during DNA replication whereby the presence of several identical base pairs in a series causes the DNA polymerase to add or omit one base by sliding over the template.
A developmentally arrested, immature, long-lived and non-feeding form of Caenorhabditis elegans that forms under conditions of food scarcity and high population density; it resumes development when food levels increase.
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Stern, D. The genetic causes of convergent evolution. Nat Rev Genet 14, 751–764 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrg3483
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