Nonparallel transcriptional divergence during parallel adaptation

Eva K. Fischer, Youngseok Song, Kimberly A. Hughes, Wen Zhou, Kim L. Hoke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How underlying mechanisms bias evolution toward predictable outcomes remains an area of active debate. In this study, we leveraged phenotypic plasticity and parallel adaptation across independent lineages of Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) to assess the predictability of gene expression evolution during parallel adaptation. Trinidadian guppies have repeatedly and independently adapted to high- and low-predation environments in the wild. We combined this natural experiment with a laboratory breeding design to attribute transcriptional variation to the genetic influences of population of origin and developmental plasticity in response to rearing with or without predators. We observed substantial gene expression plasticity, as well as the evolution of expression plasticity itself, across populations. Genes exhibiting expression plasticity within populations were more likely to also differ in expression between populations, with the direction of population differences more likely to be opposite those of plasticity. While we found more overlap than expected by chance in genes differentially expressed between high- and low-predation populations from distinct evolutionary lineages, the majority of differentially expressed genes were not shared between lineages. Our data suggest alternative transcriptional configurations associated with shared phenotypes, highlighting a role for transcriptional flexibility in the parallel phenotypic evolution of a species known for rapid adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1516-1530
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Poecilia reticulata
  • adaptation
  • parallel evolution
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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