Harvard study captures clear picture of how evolution works in vertebrates

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 01:20 in Biology & Nature

What happens when you put together several tons of steel plates, hundreds of mice, and a few evolutionary and molecular biologists in a rural location? You get one of the most complete pictures of vertebrate evolution.  Led by Hopi Hoekstra, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology and molecular and cellular biology, an international team of researchers conducted a years-long study in which hundreds of mice were released into massive, custom-built outdoor enclosures to track how those that were light- or dark-colored survived in light- and dark-colored habitats.  The results confirmed the intuition that light-colored mice survive better in light-colored habitats, and dark-colored mice in dark habitats. But the experiment also allowed researchers to pinpoint a mutation related to survival, one that affects pigmentation, and to understand how it produced a novel coat color. The study is described in a Feb. 1 paper published in the journal Science.  “Part of the inspiration for [this...

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