Mechanisms and constraints shaping the evolution of body plan segmentation
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- ten Tusscher, K.H.W.J. Eur. Phys. J. E (2013) 36: 54. doi:10.1140/epje/i2013-13054-7
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Segmentation of the major body axis into repeating units is arguably one of the major inventions in the evolution of animal body plan pattering. It is found in current day vertebrates, annelids and arthropods. Most segmented animals seem to use a clock-and-wavefront type mechanism in which oscillations emanating from a posterior growth zone become transformed into an anterior posterior sequence of segments. In contrast, few animals such as Drosophila use a complex gene regulatory hierarchy to simultaneously subdivide their entire body axis into segments. Here I discuss how in silico models simulating the evolution of developmental patterning can be used to investigate the forces and constraints that helped shape these two developmental modes. I perform an analysis of a series of previous simulation studies, exploiting the similarities and differences in their outcomes in relation to model characteristics to elucidate the circumstances and constraints likely to have been important for the evolution of sequential and simultaneous segmentation modes. The analysis suggests that constraints arising from the involved growth process and spatial patterning signal --posterior elongation producing a propagating wavefront versus a tissue wide morphogen gradient-- and the evolutionary history --ancestral versus derived segmentation mode-- strongly shaped both segmentation mechanisms. Furthermore, this implies that these patterning types are to be expected rather than random evolutionary outcomes and supports the likelihood of multiple parallel evolutionary origins.