Experimental analysis of character coupling across a complex life cycle: pigment pattern metamorphosis in the tiger salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum

J Morphol. 1998 Jul;237(1):53-67. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4687(199807)237:1<53::AID-JMOR5>3.0.CO;2-P.


Developmental relationships among characters are expected to bias patterns of morphological variation at the population level. Studies of character development thus can provide insights into processes of adaptation and the evolutionary diversification of morphologies. Here I use experimental manipulations to test whether larval and adult pigment patterns are coupled across metamorphosis in the tiger salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum (Ambystomatidae). Previous investigations showed that the early larval pigment pattern depends on interactions between pigment cells and the lateral line sensory system. In contrast, the results of this study demonstrate that the major features of the adult pigment pattern develop largely independently of both the early larval pattern and the lateral lines. These results suggest that ontogenetic changes that occur across metamorphosis decouple larval and adult pigment patterns and could thereby facilitate independent evolutionary modifications to the patterns during different stages of the life cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambystoma / growth & development*
  • Animals
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / physiology*
  • Neural Crest / growth & development
  • Skin / growth & development
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology*