Abigail M Groszkiewicz, Jesse T Hughes



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Since the origin of the 36 recognized animal phyla over 500 million years ago, subsequent evolution can be largely summarized as the diversification of physiological, behavioral, and morphological characteristics among these original 36 body plans. Diversification continues to this day and can be seen in humans as differences in coloration, lactose metabolism, and energy storage in fat tissue. As all animal characteristics are products of development, a key challenge for contemporary research is to reveal the ways in which development evolves through changes in the uses of genes. To meet this challenge, investigations must prioritize characteristics: that have recently evolved, the direction of character evolution is known, and for which the underlying genes can be studied by modern genetic manipulations. One ideal trait is the diverse coloration patterns observed on the abdominal tergites of fruit fly species from the Sophophora subgenus. Prior research has supported a scenario where melanic pigmentation limited to the male abdomen evolved once within this clade through the evolution of a sexually dimorphic pattern of expression for the bric-à-brac transcription factor genes. My research challenges this scenario by looking at the patterns of pigmentation on the abdomens of species representing the diverse Sophophora species groups and interrogating the patterns of bric-à-brac expression during the development of the abdominal tergites. Success in this work will advance the fruit fly pigmentation model as exemplar of how diversity evolves through the re-working of developmental mechanisms.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research - Graduate

Primary Advisor

Thomas M. Williams

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Revealing Evolutionary Mechanisms by Mapping Pigmentation Character States and Developmental Mechanisms onto a Resolved Fruit Fly Phylogenetic Tree