Although adaptive evolution is thought to depend primarily on mutations of small effect, major gene effects may underlie many of the important differences observed among species in nature. The Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) has a derived mode of development that is characterized by metamorphic failure (paedomorphosis), an adaptation for an entirely aquatic life cycle. By using an interspecific crossing design and genetic linkage analysis, a major quantitative trait locus for expression of metamorphosis was identified in a local map of amplified fragment length polymorphisms. These data are consistent with a major gene hypothesis for the evolution of paedomorphosis in A. mexicanum
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