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Mechanisms of Life History EvolutionThe Genetics and Physiology of Life History Traits and Trade-Offs$
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Thomas Flatt and Andreas Heyland

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199568765

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568765.001.0001

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Molecular mechanisms of life history trade-offs and the evolution of multicellular complexity in volvocalean green algae

Molecular mechanisms of life history trade-offs and the evolution of multicellular complexity in volvocalean green algae

Chapter:
(p.270) (p.271) Chapter 21 Molecular mechanisms of life history trade-offs and the evolution of multicellular complexity in volvocalean green algae
Source:
Mechanisms of Life History Evolution
Author(s):

Aurora M. Nedelcu

Richard E. Michod

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568765.003.0021

Although life history trade-offs are recognized as central to life history evolution, the mechanisms underlying trade-offs are not well understood. Life history trade-offs gain unique significance during evolutionary transitions in individuality (such as the transitions from unicellular to multicellular individuals and solitary individuals to eusocial societies). This chapter develops further this proposal using the volvocalean green algal group as a model system. First, it introduces the volvocalean algae and discusses the aspects of their life history that are relevant to the evolution of multicellularity in this lineage. Then, it briefly reviews what is known about the mechanistic basis of acclimation – a specific adaptive response to environmental changes that magnifies the survival–reproduction trade-off in these algae. Last, the chapter considers the genetic basis for the differentiation of germ and somatic cells in the most complex member of this lineage, Volvox carteri. It proposes a hypothesis for the evolution of somatic cells in which, by simulating the general acclimation signal (i.e., a change in the redox status of the cell) in a spatial rather than temporal context, a life history trade-off gene associated with ensuring long-term survival at a cost to immediate reproduction can be co-opted into a ‘specialization’ gene – that is, a gene whose differential expression between cells gives rise to specialized cell types. In this way, individual cells in a group are released from the survival–reproduction trade-off that constrains their unicellular relatives, and the two fitness components can be maximized independently and simultaneously.

Keywords:   trade-offs, fitness, survival, reproduction, evolutionary transitions, cell differentiation, acclimation, Chlamydomonas, Volvox

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