The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


The mechanistic basis for phenotypic variation: an emerging frontier in evolutionary developmental biology

HEATHER A. JAMNICZKY1, WASHINGTON MIO2, NATHAN M. YOUNG3, RALPH S. MARCUCIO3 and BENEDIKT HALLGRIMSSON1.

1Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy, University of Calgary, 2Department of Mathematics, Florida State University, 3Orthopedic Trauma Institute, University of California San Francisco

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The study of the mechanistic basis for phenotypic variation is of increasing interest in developmental biology as well in genetics. The reasons for this trend include the opportunities presented by the massive datasets generated through high –throughput phenotyping technologies, the increasing desire to compare multiple genetic perturbations and their interactions which may differ in subtle ways and the increasing understanding of the vast complexity of the genetic determinants of phenotypic variation. These large-scale trends beg for new techniques that push the frontier of integrating the measurement of form and the study of mechanism. Here, we discuss the potential of optical projection tomography in this domain and specifically address the quantification of the morphology of gene expression and its integration with the morphometrics of morphogenesis. We focus on the development of the mid-face in chicks and mice and illustrate how the quantification of gene expression in the fronto-nasal ectodermal zone provides important insights in the mechanisms of midfacial development and diversification.

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