The Invariant Nature of a Morphological Character and Character State: Insights from Gene Regulatory Networks [article]

Sergei Tarasov
2018 bioRxiv   pre-print
What constitutes a morphological character versus character state has been long discussed in the systematics literature but the consensus on this issue is still missing. Different methods of classifying organismal features into characters and character states can dramatically affect the results of phylogenetic analyses. Here, I show that the modular structure of the gene regulatory network (GRN) underlying trait development, and the hierarchical nature of GRN evolution, essentially remove the
more » ... stinction between morphological character and character state, thus endowing the character and character state with an invariant property with respect to each other. This property allows representing the states of one character as several individual characters and vice versa. In practice, this means that a phenotype can be encoded using a set of characters or just one complex character with numerous states. The representation of a phenotype using one complex character requires a selection of an appropriate penalty for the state transitions.
doi:10.1101/420471 fatcat:yv33l5asgffj7jly3qrig7wf4u