Data from: Rapid phenotypic evolution following shifts in life cycle complexity
Life cycle strategies have evolved extensively throughout the history of metazoans. The expression of disparate life stages within a single ontogeny can present conflicts to trait evolution, and therefore may have played a major role in shaping metazoan forms. However, few studies have examined the consequences of adding or subtracting life stages on patterns of trait evolution. By analyzing trait evolution in a clade of closely related salamander lineages we show that shifts in number of life cycle stages are associated with rapid phenotypic evolution. Specifically, salamanders with an aquatic-only (paedomorphic) life cycle have frequently added vertebrae to their trunk skeleton compared to closely related lineages with a complex aquatic-to-terrestrial (biphasic) life cycle. The rate of vertebral column evolution is also substantially lower in biphasic lineages, which may reflect the functional compromise of a complex cycle. This study demonstrates that the consequences of life cycle evolution can be detected at very fine-scales of divergence due to rapid evolutionary responses to shifts in selective regimes following changes in life cycle complexity.
National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1050322 and Oklahoma EPSCoR IIA-1301789