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Gene expression and feeding ecology: evolution of piscivory in the venomous gastropod genus Conus.

Duda T.F. Jr., Palumbi S.R.

Differential expression of gene-family members is typically associated with the specific development of certain tissues and organs, but its importance in the ecological adaptation of organisms has rarely been investigated. Several specialized feeding modes have evolved within the predatory marine gastropod genus Conus, including molluscivory and piscivory. Based on phylogenetic investigations of Conus species, it has been concluded that piscivory arose at least twice in this genus. Moreover, molecular analyses of conotoxin mRNA transcripts reveal that piscivores from independent evolutionary lineages express the same subset of four-loop conotoxins, contrary to phylogenetic expectations. These results demonstrate that differential expression of gene-family members can play a key role in adaptive evolution, particularly during shifts to new ecological niches.

Proc. R. Soc. B 271:1165-1174(2004) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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