Convergence in pigmentation at multiple levels: Mutations, genes and function

Marie Manceau, Vera S. Domingues, Catherine R. Linnen, Erica Bree Rosenblum, Hopi E. Hoekstra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

219 Scopus citations


Convergence-the independent evolution of the same trait by two or more taxa-has long been of interest to evolutionary biologists, but only recently has the molecular basis of phenotypic convergence been identified. Here, we highlight studies of rapid evolution of cryptic coloration in vertebrates to demonstrate that phenotypic convergence can occur at multiple levels: mutations, genes and gene function. We first show that different genes can be responsible for convergent phenotypes even among closely related populations, for example, in the pale beach mice inhabiting Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts. By contrast, the exact same mutation can create similar phenotypes in distantly related species such as mice and mammoths. Next, we show that different mutations in the same gene need not be functionally equivalent to produce similar phenotypes. For example, separate mutations produce divergent protein function but convergent pale coloration in two lizard species. Similarly, mutations that alter the expression of a gene in different ways can, nevertheless, result in similar phenotypes, as demonstrated by sister species of deer mice. Together these studies underscore the importance of identifying not only the genes, but also the precise mutations and their effects on protein function, that contribute to adaptation and highlight how convergence can occur at different genetic levels. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2439-2450
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1552
StatePublished - Aug 27 2010


  • Adaptation
  • Agouti
  • Colour
  • Melanocortin-1 receptor
  • Parallel evolution
  • Peromyscus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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