To understand the constraints on biological diversity, we analyzed how selection and development interact to control the evolution of inflorescences, the branching structures that bear flowers. We show that a single developmental model accounts for the restricted range of inflorescence types observed in nature and that this model is supported by molecular genetic studies. The model predicts associations between inflorescence architecture, climate, and life history, which we validated empirically. Paths, or evolutionary wormholes, link different architectures in a multidimensional fitness space, but the rate of evolution along these paths is constrained by genetic and environmental factors, which explains why some evolutionary transitions are rare between closely related plant taxa.
Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, Yvette Erasmus, Brendan Lane, Lawrence D. Harder, and Enrico Coen. Evolution and Development of Inflorescence Architectures. Science 316(5830), pp. 1452-1456.
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