Animal coloration is a powerful model for studying the genetic mechanisms that determine phenotype. Genetic crosses of laboratory mice have provided extensive information about the patterns of inheritance and pleiotropic effects of loci involved in pigmentation. Recently, the study of pigmentation genes and their functions has extended into wild populations, providing additional evidence that pigment gene function is largely conserved across disparate vertebrate taxa and can influence adaptive coloration, often in predictable ways. These new and integrative studies, along with those using a genetic approach to understand color perception, raise some important questions. Most notably, how does selection shape both phenotypic and genetic variation, and how can we use this information to further understand the phenotypic diversity generated by evolutionary processes?
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