A novel gene family controls species-specific morphological traits in Hydra

PLoS Biol. 2008 Nov 18;6(11):e278. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060278.


Understanding the molecular events that underlie the evolution of morphological diversity is a major challenge in biology. Here, to identify genes whose expression correlates with species-specific morphologies, we compared transcriptomes of two closely related Hydra species. We find that species-specific differences in tentacle formation correlate with expression of a taxonomically restricted gene encoding a small secreted protein. We show that gain of function induces changes in morphology that mirror the phenotypic differences observed between species. These results suggest that "novel" genes may be involved in the generation of species-specific morphological traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Hydra / anatomy & histology
  • Hydra / classification
  • Hydra / genetics*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Transcription Factors