Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Color Differences Within And Between Species Have Common Genetic Origin

Date:
October 25, 2009
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Spend a little time people-watching at the beach and you're bound to notice differences in the amount, thickness and color of people's body hair. Then head to the zoo and compare people to chimps, our closest living relatives. The body hair difference is even more pronounced between the two species than within our own species. Do the same genes cause both types of variation? New research shows that, at least for body color in fruit flies, the two kinds of variation have a common genetic basis.

Body hair difference is more pronounced between chimpanzees and humans than within our own species. Biologists have puzzled over the same genes cause both types of variation, not just with respect to people, chimps and body hair, but for all sorts of traits that differ within and between species. New research shows that, at least for body color in fruit flies, the two kinds of variation have a common genetic basis.
Credit: iStockphoto/Warwick Lister-Kaye

Spend a little time people-watching at the beach and you're bound to notice differences in the amount, thickness and color of people's body hair. Then head to the zoo and compare people to chimps, our closest living relatives.

Related Articles


The body hair difference is even more pronounced between the two species than within our own species.

Do the same genes cause both types of variation? Biologists have puzzled over that question for some time, not just with respect to people, chimps and body hair, but for all sorts of traits that differ within and between species. Now, a study by University of Michigan researchers shows that, at least for body color in fruit flies, the two kinds of variation have a common genetic basis. The research, led by evolutionary biologist Patricia Wittkopp, appears in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Science.

Wittkopp's group explored the genetic underpinnings of pigmentation differences within and between a pair of closely related fruit fly species: Drosophila americana, which is dark brown, and Drosophila novamexicana, which is light yellow.

"We started by asking which parts of the genome contribute to the pigmentation difference between species," said Wittkopp, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Genetic mapping narrowed the search to two regions that happened to contain genes already known to affect pigmentation. The researchers then focused on one particular gene, known as tan, and used fine-scale genetic mapping to determine that evolutionary changes in that specific gene, not another gene in the same region, have contributed to the pigmentation difference.

To confirm that finding, the team transferred copies of the tan gene from the yellow species into flies of a completely different species, Drosophila melanogaster, and then did the same thing with copies of the tan gene from the brown species. The only difference between the two groups of altered flies was the transferred gene, "and that difference was enough to result in pigmentation differences," Wittkopp said.

Confident that the tan gene was responsible for part of the color difference between species, Wittkopp and coworkers investigated color variation within the brown species. Some flies in that species are noticeably darker than others, and previous experiments have suggested that the basis for the difference is genetic, rather than environmental.

Again using genetic mapping, the researchers found evidence that the tan gene also contributes to color variation among individuals within the brown species. Going a step further, they showed that it is not just the same gene that contributes to color differences within and between species, but also the same genetic changes within this gene. Currently, the team is trying to pinpoint the exact genetic change (or changes) within the tan gene that is responsible for the color shift.

Although this study focused on fruit flies, the work could lead to better understanding of patterns of variation throughout nature, Wittkopp said. "We're using a model system, but when you get down to the basic mechanisms of inheritance---how information is passed from one generation to the next---the process is essentially the same in all living things. While we can't extrapolate about the specific genes involved, it is fair to say that mutations contributing to both variation within species and divergence between species may be a common source of evolutionary change."

Wittkopp's coauthors on the Science paper were undergraduate students Emma Stewart, Laura Shefner, Gabriel Smith-Winberry, Saleh Akhras and Elizabeth Thompson; graduate student Lisa Arnold; and technicians Adam Neidert and Belinda Haerum.

The researchers received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Margaret and Herman Sokol Endowment for Faculty and Graduate Student Research and the University of Michigan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Color Differences Within And Between Species Have Common Genetic Origin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091022141123.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2009, October 25). Color Differences Within And Between Species Have Common Genetic Origin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091022141123.htm
University of Michigan. "Color Differences Within And Between Species Have Common Genetic Origin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091022141123.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

AFP (Mar. 25, 2015) Experts are gathering in Botswana to try to end the illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Newsy (Mar. 25, 2015) The Natchitoches Parish Sheriff&apos;s Office discovered two elephants keeping a tractor-trailer that had gotten stuck in some mud upright on a highway. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) Buti, a baby orangutan who was left malnourished in a chicken cage before his rescue, takes his first steps after months of painful physical therapy. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins