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Conserved switch genes regulate a novel cannibalistic morph after whole genome duplication

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Wighard,  S       
Department Integrative Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, Max Planck Society;

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Sommer,  RJ       
Department Integrative Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, Max Planck Society;

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Witte,  H       
Department Integrative Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Wighard, S., Sommer, R., & Witte, H. (submitted). Conserved switch genes regulate a novel cannibalistic morph after whole genome duplication.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-9E8D-3
Abstract
Developmental plasticity facilitates morphological and behavioural novelty, but associated regulatory mechanisms remain elusive. Nematodes have emerged as a powerful model to study developmental plasticity and its evolution. Here, we show the predatory nematode Allodiplogaster sudhausi evolved an additional third mouth morph, concomitant with whole genome duplication (WGD) and a strong increase in body size. The three mouth morphs are induced by different diets; bacteria, fungi and nematodes. CRISPR experiments indicate that regulation of the third morph involves co-option of a conserved developmental switch gene, which through WGD resulted in two mouth-form regulators. Gene dosage studies revealed a diverged role of these developmental switches, with functional redundancy and quantitative effects in the two mouth-form decisions, respectively. The third morph is cannibalistic and kills kin, whereas the other two morphs do not. Thus, the recent evolution of a new morph relies on pre-existing regulatory mechanisms and adds behavioural and social complexity.