Repeated independent origins of the placenta reveal convergent and divergent organ evolution within a single fish family (Poeciliidae): Divergence in the evolution of the teleost placenta

D.A. Safian Carrillo*, M. Ahmed, H. van Kruistum, Andrew I. Furness, David N. Reznick, G. Wiegertjes, B.J.A. Pollux*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An outstanding question in biology is to what extent convergent evolution produces similar, but not necessarily identical, complex phenotypic solutions. The placenta is a complex organ that repeatedly evolved in the livebearing fish family Poeciliidae. Here, we apply comparative approaches to test whether evolution has produced similar or different placental phenotypes in the Poeciliidae and to what extent these phenotypes correlate with convergence at the molecular level. We show the existence of two placental phenotypes characterized by distinctly different anatomical adaptations (divergent evolution). Furthermore, each placental phenotype independently evolved multiple times across the family, providing evidence for repeated convergence. Moreover, our comparative genomic analysis revealed that the genomes of species with different placentas are evolving at a different pace. Last, we show that the two placental phenotypes correlate with two previously described contrasting life-history optima. Our results argue for high evolvability (both divergent and convergent) of the placenta within a group of closely related species in a single family.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadf3915
JournalScience Advances
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2023

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