Work by Sean Carroll, Professor of Genetics is described in a recent issue of Nature as one of 15 Evolutionary Gems that provide evidence for evolution by natural selection. Carroll’s work is described in “gem” number 13, titled Microevolution Meets Macroevolution. Here’s an excerpt:
“Sean Carroll from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and his colleagues looked at a molecular mechanism that contributes to the gain of a single spot on the wings of male flies of the species Drosophila biarmipes; they reported their findings in 2005.”
“The researchers showed that the evolution of this spot is connected with modifications of an ancestral regulatory element of a gene involved in pigmentation.This regulatory element has, over time, acquired binding sites for transcription factors that are ancient components of wing development. One of the transcription factors that binds specifically to the regulatory element of the yellow gene is encoded by engrailed, a gene fundamental to development as a whole.
“This shows that a gene involved in one process can be co-opted for another, in principle driving macroevolutionary change.”