How to get long legs

How to get long legs

Wed, 12/05/2021


Publication of IGFL in Plos Biology on May 11, 2021.

The growth factor BMP11 is required for the development and evolution of a male exaggerated weapon and its associated fighting behavior in a water strider.


Exaggerated sexually selected traits, often carried by males, are characterized by the evolution of hyperallometry, resulting in their disproportionate growth relative to the rest of the body among individuals of the same population. While the evolution of allometry has attracted much attention for centuries, our understanding of the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying its emergence remains fragmented. Here we conduct comparative transcriptomics of the legs followed by an RNA interference (RNAi) screen to identify genes that play a role in the hyperallometric growth of the third legs in the males of the water strider Microvelia longipes. We demonstrate that a broadly expressed growth factor, Bone Morphogenetic Protein 11 (BMP11, also known as Growth Differentiation Factor 11), regulates leg allometries through increasing the allometric slope and mean body size in males. In contrast, BMP11 RNAi reduced mean body size but did not affect slope either in the females of M. longipes or in the males and females of other closely related Microvelia species. Furthermore, our data show that a tissue-specific factor, Ultrabithorax (Ubx), increases intercept without affecting mean body size. This indicates a genetic correlation between mean body size and variation in allometric slope, but not intercept. Strikingly, males treated with BMP11 RNAi exhibited a severe reduction in fighting frequency compared to both controls and Ubx RNAi-treated males. Therefore, male body size, the exaggerated weapon, and the intense fighting behavior associated with it are genetically correlated in M. longipes. Our results support a possible role of pleiotropy in the evolution of allometric slope.

Source: The growth factor BMP11 is required for the development and evolution of a male exaggerated weapon and its associated fighting behavior in a water striderToubiana W, Armisen D, Viala S,  Decaras A, Khila A. Plos Biology, May 11, 2021. 

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