The relation between genes and phenotypes, mediated through development, is manifested in the genetic architecture. Multivariate phenotypes, composed of different traits, have their form and structure determined by a series of genes and developmental processes, resulting in a complex genetic architecture. The evolution of these phenotypes depends strongly on their genetic architecture, which ultimately determines the genetic correlation between parts in an organism. The covariation between traits can both facilitate of restrict evolutionary change in response to a given selective pressure, e therefore is a major factor in the study of morphological diversification. In this project, we propose to investigate the evolution of genetic architecture and covariation in the mammalian skull, a classic complex phenotype composed of several traits and involved in several functions fundamental to reproduction and survival. Using high resolution 3D micro tomography images obtained from an intercross population of mice derived from an artificial selection experiment, we will investigate how these populations changed under selection, and how cranial variation relates to growth. Furthermore, using high resolution genetic markers and multivariate statistical methods, we will directly assess the genetic architecture of the skull in order to understand how allelic variation is altered by selection. This rich data set allows for direct quantification of the relation between pleiotropy and genetic covariation, and for an in dept study of the evolution of genetic architecture under selection. This microevolutionary investigation has the potential to greatly enhance our understating of macroevolutionary diversification and covariation.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: