By tracing the 30-million year history of variation in a gene found in plants such as tomatoes and tobacco, biologists at the University of California, San Diego have found new evidence to support an old idea — that some evolutionary changes are irreversible.
Fruit and flower of wolfberry, a member of the Solanaceae family. Boris Igic, UCSD
Flowers of jimsonweed, a species that can self fertilize. Boris Igic, UCSD
Their study, published this week in an early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers new support for the idea that the loss of complex traits, like eyes, wings or in this case a reproductive mechanism, is often irreversible. In other words, once lost, the traits never revert to their original state.
"This is the strongest evidence yet to support irreversibility,” said Joshua Kohn, an associate professor of biology at UCSD who headed the study. "If we had not used the genetic data coding for this reproductive mechanism and only inferred the pattern of evolution based on the traits of living species, we would have come to the opposite conclusion and with high statistical support — that the trait evolved more than once.”
Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
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