Discontinuous variation within individuals is increasingly recognized as playing a role in diversification and ecological speciation. This study is part of an effort to investigate the molecular genetic underpinnings of adaptive radiation in Hawaiian spiders (genus Tetragnatha). This radiation is found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, showing a common pattern of evolutionary progression from older to younger islands. Moreover, the species are characterized by repeated evolution of similar ecomorphs that can be recognized on the basis of color--Green, Maroon, Large Brown, and Small Brown. However, 2 species (including T. kauaiensis from Kauai) are polyphenic, changing from 1 ecomorph (Green) to another (Maroon) at a specific developmental period. The current study focuses on the age-associated color change in the early stages of the radiation to determine whether this ancestral flexibility in phenotype may have translated into diversification of more derived taxa. We conducted a comparative analysis of transcriptome data (expressed genes) from the Maroon morph of T. kauaiensis and T. perreirai (Oahu), which exhibits a single fixed ecomorph (Maroon). Over 70 million sequence reads were generated using Illumina sequencing of messenger RNA. Using reciprocal best hit BLAST searches, 9027 orthologous genes were identified, of which 32 showed signatures of positive selection between the 2 taxa and may be involved in the loss of the ancestral developmental polyphenism and associated switch to separate monophenic ecomorphs. These results provide critical groundwork that will allow us to advance our understanding of the genomic elements associated with adaptive radiations.
Keywords: adaptive radiation; color evolution; dN/dS; polyphenism; spider; transcriptomics.
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