From Morphology to Genes

Adaptation works frequently via changes in morphology, but the underlying genetic processes are only poorly known. We are focussing on the mouse skull as a model system to approach the genetics of shape. We use morphological data based on computer tomogrphy and geometric morphometrics to quantify changes in shape components and various QTL and association mapping approaches to identify genetic components.

Status of the project

The project was initiated by Louis Boell, who focussed on the mandible as a component of the skull shape that could be approximated by 2D landmark configurations. He generated crucial data for the wildtype shape space of the mandible (Boell and Tautz 2011), and studied consomic mouse strains to get insights into the general genetic architecture (Boell et al. 2011). To expand the work into 3D, we collaborated with Neil Thacker (Manchester University) to develop an automatic landmarking tool for 3D analysis of shapes (Schunke et al. 2012). We are now starting to use this tool to generate data sets within the framework of mapping projects. Luisa Fernanda Pallares is currently completing a study on association mapping across the hybridzone (in collaboration with Tina Harr and Leslie Turner). We have further collaborations with the group of Abe Palmer (University of Chicago) and Ibrahim Saleh (University of Lübeck) to use skulls from their respective association mapping projects.

publications in the context of this project

  • Boell L, Tautz D. (2011). Micro-evolutionary divergence patterns of mandible shapes in wild house mouse (Mus musculus) populations. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11, 306.
  • Boell L, Gregorova S, Forejt J, Tautz D. (2011). A comparative assessment of mandible shape in a consomic strain panel of the house mouse (Mus musculus)--implications for epistasis and evolvability of quantitative traits. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11, 309.
  • Schunke, A.C., Bromiley, P.A., Tautz, D., Thacker, N.A.  (2012). TINA Manual Landmarking Tool: Software for the precise digitization of 3D landmarks. Frontiers in Zoology 9, 6.
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