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most important paper 2004



Listers,

In my view one of the most important papers of the  past year was "BMP4
and Morphological Variation of Beaks in Darwin's Finches"  by Abzhanov,
et
al. It was published in Science 305:1462-66. It is  significant because
it
compares animals with very similar, probably nearly  identical genotypes,
that have significantly different phenotypes. The species are 
ecologically diverse with
major differences in the beak morphology. It was these differences that
first captured Darwins'' attention and have been the subject of multiple
studies right up to the present.. The  authors have identified the
expression of the genes that produce this diversity.  The sweet part is
where they show that similar growth differences can be  produced
experimentally in chickens, which grow larger beaks with elevated 
activity in precisely the same genes is induced.

In an accompanying  paper by Wu et al, the work is extended to beaks of
chicken and duck. One  point is that the same machinery and information
is
used to produce highly  variable morphology. Clearly, morphological
plasticity of this sort is  essential to the evolution of diversity. And
the Grants have shown just how rapid this evolution can be.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan  H Brush
brushes2@juno.com
92 High Street
Mystic, CT. 06355
(860)  572-1717


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