Molecular evolution tracks macroevolutionary transitions in Cetacea

Michael R. McGowen, John Gatesy, Derek E. Wildman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is a model group for investigating the molecular signature of macroevolutionary transitions. Recent research has begun to reveal the molecular underpinnings of the remarkable anatomical and behavioral transformation in this clade. This shift from terrestrial to aquatic environments is arguably the best-understood major morphological transition in vertebrate evolution. The ancestral body plan and physiology were extensively modified and, in many cases, these crucial changes are recorded in cetacean genomes. Recent studies have highlighted cetaceans as central to understanding adaptive molecular convergence and pseudogene formation. Here, we review current research in cetacean molecular evolution and the potential of Cetacea as a model for the study of other macroevolutionary transitions from a genomic perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-346
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquatic adaptation
  • Convergence
  • Pseudogenes
  • Sensory genes
  • Whale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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