Theories of the genetics underlying punctuated equilibrium (PE) have been vague to date. Here the developmental gene hypothesis is proposed, which states that: 1) developmental regulatory (DevReg) genes are responsible for the orchestration of metazoan morphogenesis and their extreme conservation and mutation intolerance generates the equilibrium or stasis present throughout much of the fossil record and 2) the accumulation of regulatory elements and recombination within these same genes-often derived from transposable elements-drives punctuated bursts of morphological divergence and speciation across metazoa. This two-part hypothesis helps to explain the features that characterize PE, providing a theoretical genetic basis for the once-controversial theory. Also see the video abstract here https://youtu.be/C-fu-ks5yDs.
Keywords: conserved noncoding elements; developmental regulatory genes; macroevolution; punctuated equilibrium; regulome; transposable elements.
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CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
The authors declare no conflicts of interest pertaining to this work, financial or otherwise.
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