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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evolution of patterns on Conus shells

  • Author(s): Gong, Z.
  • Matzke, N. J
  • Ermentrout, B.
  • Song, D.
  • Vendetti, J. E
  • Slatkin, M.
  • Oster, G.
  • et al.

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The pigmentation patterns of shells in the genus Conus can be generated by a neural-network model of the mantle. We fit model parameters to the shell pigmentation patterns of 19 living Conus species for which a well resolved phylogeny is available. We infer the evolutionary history of these parameters and use these results to infer the pigmentation patterns of ancestral species. The methods we use allow us to characterize the evolutionary history of a neural network, an organ that cannot be preserved in the fossil record. These results are also notable because the inferred patterns of ancestral species sometimes lie outside the range of patterns of their living descendants, and illustrate how development imposes constraints on the evolution of complex phenotypes.

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