Developmental Systems Drift and the Drivers of Sex Chromosome Evolution

Caroline M.S. Cauret, Marie Theres Gansauge, Andrew S. Tupper, Benjamin L.S. Furman, Martin Knytl, Xue Ying Song, Eli Greenbaum, Matthias Meyer, Ben J. Evans, Melissa Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Phenotypic invariance-the outcome of purifying selection-is a hallmark of biological importance. However, invariant phenotypes might be controlled by diverged genetic systems in different species. Here, we explore how an important and invariant phenotype-the development of sexually differentiated individuals-is controlled in over two dozen species in the frog family Pipidae. We uncovered evidence in different species for 1) an ancestral W chromosome that is not found in many females and is found in some males, 2) independent losses and 3) autosomal segregation of this W chromosome, 4) changes in male versus female heterogamy, and 5) substantial variation among species in recombination suppression on sex chromosomes. We further provide evidence of, and evolutionary context for, the origins of at least seven distinct systems for regulating sex determination among three closely related genera. These systems are distinct in their genomic locations, evolutionary origins, and/or male versus female heterogamy. Our findings demonstrate that the developmental control of sexual differentiation changed via loss, sidelining, and empowerment of a mechanistically influential gene, and offer insights into novel factors that impinge on the diverse evolutionary fates of sex chromosomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-810
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • developmental systems drift
  • recombination suppression
  • sex chromosomes
  • sexual antagonism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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