Heterochrony

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In biology, heterochrony is defined as a developmental change in the timing of events, leading to changes in size and shape. There are two main components, namely (i) the onset and offset of a particular process, and (ii) the rate at which the process operates. A developmental process in one species can only be described as heterochronic in relation to the same process in another species, considered the basal or ancestral state, which operates with different onset and/or offset times, and/or at different rates. The concept was first introduced by Ernst Haeckel in 1875.[1]

An example can best illustrate the three dimensions of heterochrony.

  • If a developmental process, such as the growth of a tail in the embryo of "species A", starts earlier and ends earlier than that of "species B", but the rate of growth is the same for both, the final result may basically be the same, although the tail of species A develops earlier than the one of species B. The earlier exhibits predisplacement, and the later species exhibits postdisplacement.[2]
  • If the rate of growth is increased, and the time between the start and end of development is decreased proportionally, the tail will end up the same size. The species with faster growth exhibits acceleration, and the species with slower exhibits neoteny.[2]
  • If the end of development is delayed and the rate is unaffected, development progresses further, and the tail will be also larger. The species that develops further exhibits hypermorphosis, and the species that does not develop as far exhibits progenesis.[2]

Detecting heterochronies[edit]

Some heterochronies are easily identifiable when comparing phylogenetically close species, for example a group of different bird species whose legs differ in their average length. However, in many cases, these comparisons are complex because there are no universal ontogenetic time markers. Because of this, the method of event pairing, consisting in comparing the relative timing of two events at a time, was developed.[3] This method was designed to detect event heterochronies, as opposed to allometric changes. It is fairly cumbersome to use because the number of event pair characters increases with the square of the number of events compared. Thus, an automated algorithm was implemented into the PARSIMOV script.[4] A more recent method, continuous analysis, rests on a simple standardization of ontogenetic time or sequences, on squared change parsimony and phylogenetic independent contrasts.[5]

Humans[edit]

Several heterochronies have been described in humans, relative to the chimpanzee. For instance, in chimpanzee fetuses brain and head growth starts at about the same developmental stage and present a growth rate similar to that of humans, but end soon after birth. Humans, on the contrary, continue their brain and head growth several years after birth. This particular type of heterochrony is named hypermorphosis and involves a delay in the offset of a developmental process, or what is the same, the presence of an early developmental process in later stages of development. In addition, humans are known for presenting about 30 different neotenies in comparison to the chimpanzee.[6]

In other species[edit]

Heterochrony is extensively referenced in biological literature, but inconsistence with its uses remains. This is due to lack of universal definition. To exacerbate the confusion, subcategories of heterochrony were and are currently being used differently. The term neoteny is one of three types of paedomorphosis, that was originally used by Kolman (1885) to describe the truncation of development in an organism. Later on, neoteny was used by De Beer (1930) to describe decreased growth in somatic character and accelerated growth in gonadal development. To alleviate the confusion for simplicity purposes, heterochrony in other species will be described in the form of paedomorphosis and peramorphosis. In addition, species will be described in comparison to similar species or relatives along its lineage.[7]

Paedomorphosis can be observed when an organism/species mature (sexual maturation is most typical) while retaining juvenile traits. One specie commonly studied is the Axolotl. The adult Axolotl looks very similar to its larval form. Some say it looks like a giant larvae. Adult Axolotls are sexually mature, but retain their gills and fins. They remain in aquatic environments.[8][9]In three species of bagworm moths, females become flightless when their wings become degenerate, reduced, or wingless due to apoptosis. The reduction in their wings begins in their late larval stage to pupal stage. A common misconception of insects is the importance of acquiring the ability of flight.[10] From an evolutionary perspective, if there is no demand for flight, then nature selection will favor flightlessness.

Contrary to paedomorphosis, peramorphosis is delayed maturation and extended periods of growth. The extinct Irish elk is an example of peramorphosis. From fossil record, it’s antlers spanned up to 12 feet wide, which is about a third larger than it’s closer relative’s antlers, the moose. The Irish elk’s have a larger antler due to extended development during its period of growth. In addition, these huge antlers exemplify outweighed benefits of sexual selection by ecological selection. Due to the nutrient costs of maintaining these antlers combined with rapid climate change, the Irish elk could not adapt and evolve lesser antlers fast enough, which led to their extinction.[11][12] Another example of peramorphosis is the insular rodents, also known as island rodents. Their characteristics include gigantism, wider cheek and teeth, reduced litter size, and longer life span. Their relatives that inhabit the continental environments are much smaller. These insular rodents have evolved gigantism, wider cheek and teeth to accommodate the abundance of larger food and resource they have on the island. This factor is part of a complex phenomenon termed Island Syndrome.[13] With less predation and competition for resources, selection favored overdevelopment of these species. Reduced litter sizes enable overdevelopment of its bodies into larger ones. In some species of frogs, such as the Puerto Rican tree frog, they skip their entire larval stage. These frogs hatch out of their eggs into froglets with limbs, severely reduced gills (or lack gills), and gill slits. Their habitat includes forests, gardens, under rocks, and logs, which are non-aquatic.[14][15]

A trend commonly seen is that paedomorphic species have the tendency to inhabit or stay in aquatic environments and peramorphic species tend to inhabit terrestrial environments. The mole salamander, which is a close relative to the Axolotl, surprisingly displays both paedomorphosis and paramorphisis. The larva can develop into both directions, but not backwards. Some research supposes that population density, food, and the amount of water had an effect on the expression of heterochrony. A study conducted on the mole salamander in 1987 found it evident that a higher percentage of individuals became paedomorphic when there were low larval population density in constant water level versus high larval population density in drying water.[16] This had an implication that led to hypotheses claiming that selective pressures imposed by the environment, such as predation and resources were instrumental to the cause of these trends.[17] These ideas were reinforced by other studies, such as peramorphosis in the Puerto Rican Tree frog. Another reason could be generation time, or the lifespan of the species in question. When a species have a relatively short lifespan, natural selection will favor evolution of paedomorphosis (e.g. Axolotl: 7-10 years). On the flip side, in long lifespans, natural selection will favor evolution of peramorphosis (e.g. Irish Elk: 20-22 years).[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Horder, Tim (April 2006). "Heterochrony". Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. 
  2. ^ a b c Rice, S. H. "Heterochrony". November 2007. Accessed July 14, 2011.
  3. ^ Velhagen, W.A. (1997). "Analyzing developmental sequences using sequences units". Systematic Biology 46 (1): 204–210. 
  4. ^ Jeffery, M.K., Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P., Coates, M.I., Richardson (2005). "A new technique for identifying sequence heterochrony". Systematic Biology 54 (2): 230–240. doi:10.1080/10635150590923227. 
  5. ^ Germain, D., Laurin, M. (2009). "Evolution of ossification sequences in salamanders and urodele origins assessed through event-pairing and new methods". Evolution & Development 11 (2): 170–190. doi:10.1111/j.1525-142X.2009.00318.x. 
  6. ^ Mitteroecker P, Gunz P, Bernhard M, Schaefer K, Bookstein FL (June 2004). "Comparison of cranial ontogenetic trajectories among great apes and humans". J. Hum. Evol. 46 (6): 679–97. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2004.03.006. PMID 15183670. 
    Penin X, Berge C, Baylac M (May 2002). "Ontogenetic study of the skull in modern humans and the common chimpanzees: neotenic hypothesis reconsidered with a tridimensional Procrustes analysis". Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 118 (1): 50–62. doi:10.1002/ajpa.10044. PMID 11953945. 
  7. ^ Reilly, Stephen M., E. O. Wiley, and J. Daniel (1997). "An integrative approach to heterochrony: the distinction between interspecific and intraspecific phenomena". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 60 (1): 119–143. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Malacinski, George M. (1978). "The Mexican axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum: its biology and developmental genetics, and its autonomous cell-lethal genes". American Zoologist 18 (2): 195–206. 
  9. ^ Wake, D. B (2009). "What salamanders have taught us about evolution". Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Research 40: 333–352. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Niitsu, S. H. U. H. E. I., and Yukimasa Kobayashi (2008). "The developmental process during metamorphosis that results in wing reduction in females of three species of wingless-legged bagworm moths, Taleporia trichopterella, Bacotia sakabei and Proutia sp.(Lepidoptera: Psychidae).". Eur. J. Entomol 105 (4): 697-706. 
  11. ^ Futuyma, Douglas (2013). Evolution. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc. pp. 64–66. ISBN 1605351156. 
  12. ^ Moenm Ron A., John Pastor, Yosef Cohen (1999). "Antler growth and extinction of Irish elk.". Evolutionary Ecology Research 1 (2): 235–249. 
  13. ^ Raia, Pasquale, et al. (2010). "The blue lizard spandrel and the island syndrome". BMC evolutionary biology 10 (1): 289. 
  14. ^ Elizabeth M. Callery, Hung Fang, Richard P. Elinson (2001). "Frogs without polliwogs: evolution of anuran direct development". BioEssays 23 (3): 233–241. 
  15. ^ Daniel S. Townsend and Margaret M. Stewart (1985). "Direct Development in Eleutherodactylus coqui (Anura: Leptodactylidae): A Staging Table". Copeia 1985 (2): 423-436. 
  16. ^ Semlitsch, Raymond D. (1987). "Paedomorphosis in Ambystoma talpoideum: effects of density, food, and pond drying". Ecology: 992–1002. 
  17. ^ M. Denoel, P. Joly (2000). "Neoteny and progenesis as two heterochronic processes involved in paedomorphosis in Triturus alpestris (Amphibia: Caudata)". Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences. B 267 (1451): 1481–1485. 
  18. ^ Raia, Pasquale, et al. (2010). "The blue lizard spandrel and the island syndrome". BMC evolutionary biology 10 (1): 289. 

See also[edit]