The American Naturalist
University of Chicago Press
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Genome size varies widely among organisms and is known to affect vertebrate development, morphology, and physiology. In amphibians, genome size is hypothesized to contribute to loss of late-forming structures, although this hypothesis has mainly been discussed in salamanders. Here we estimated genome size for 22 anuran species and combined this novel dataset with existing genome size data for an additional 234 anuran species to determine whether larger genome size is associated with loss of a late-forming anuran sensory structure, the tympanic middle ear. We established that genome size is negatively correlated with development rate across 90 anuran species and found that genome size evolution is correlated with evolutionary loss of the middle ear bone (columella) among 241 species (224 eared and 17 earless). We further tested whether the development of the tympanic middle ear could be constrained by large cell sizes and small body sizes during key stages of tympanic middle ear development (metamorphosis). Together, our evidence suggests that larger genomes, slower development rate, and smaller body sizes at metamorphosis may contribute to the loss of the anuran tympanic middle ear. We conclude that increases in anuran genome size, although less drastic than in salamanders, may affect development of late-forming traits.
Womack, M.C., Metz, M.J., and Hoke, K.L. 2019. Larger genomes linked to slower development and loss of late-developing traits. American Naturalist, 194(6), 854-864.