Fish may show how nature diversifies

is still possible to carry out crosses between the new species using artificial fertilization, said Kingsley. This makes it possible to use genetics to study the number and location of genetic changes that are responsible for evolutionary change.

The isolated pockets of sticklebacks have created thousands of evolutionary experiments, he added. By studying the genetic variation among various species, Kingsley said it should be possible to discover how evolution generates new species adapted to life in different environments.

As a first test of the new genetic map, Kingsley and his associates crossed two species of sticklebacks that live in Priest Lake in British Columbia. One species inhabits the grassy, murky lake bottom near shore, while the other lives mainly in the open water. The two species dont interbreed in the wild and look dissimilar. The species that lives near shore, for example, has less body armor and a thicker body. The species that lives in open water more closely resembles the ancestral form, which still lives in the open ocean, and has larger eyes, a longer snout and jaw, and more numerous gill rakers for filter feeding.

When the researchers looked at the spectrum of skeletal changes between the species, they saw two phenomena. First, they discovered that different chromosome regions control the development of different parts of the fish skeleton. Even parts of the skeleton that are in close proximity to each other are controlled by different regions of the genome.

This makes sense because when you think about the diversity of size and shape among different animals, it is clear that vertebrates have to be able to independently modify the size and shape of individual skeletal features, said Kingsley.

Second, the researchers discovered that the longest spine on the fishes back and the single spine projecting from its belly, whose lengths are highly correlated, are also linked genetically in a si

Contact: Jim Keeley
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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