3 years ago

Furcation and Fusion: The phylogenetics of evolutionary novelty

Novelty and innovation are fundamental yet relatively understudied concepts in evolution. We may study the history and provenance of novelty using phylogenetics, where key questions include when evolution occurs by tree-like branching and when it occurs by movement of distantly related parts in processes akin to horizontal transfer. Perfectly vertical inheritance, often an assumption of evolutionary trees, requires simultaneous co-duplication of the parts of a duplicating or speciating (processes I collectively call 'furcating') biological feature. However, simultaneous co-duplication of many parts usually requires variational processes that are rare. Therefore, instead of always being perfectly tree-like, evolution often involves events that incorporate or fuse more distantly related parts into new units during evolution, which herein I call 'fusion'. Exon shuffling, horizontal gene transfer, introgression, and co-option are such fusion processes at different levels of organization. The ubiquity of processes that fuse distantly related parts has wide ranging implications for the study of macroevolution. For one, the central metaphor of a tree of life will often be incomplete, to the point where we may consider a different metaphor, such as economic public goods, or a ‘web of life’. Secondly, we often may need to expand commonly used phylogenetic models and methods, highlighting a need for an expansive toolkit for studying evolutionary history. Even though furcation - the splitting and individuation of biological features - does happen, fusion of distant parts may often be just as critical for the evolution of novelties, and must formally be incorporated into the metaphors, models, and visualization of evolutionary history. This will allow us to understand the timing, order of appearance, and diversification rates of developmental systems, including cell types, organs, behavior, and language.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0012160617301549

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