Adaptive cellular evolution or cellular system drift in hares

Arnar Palsson, Sarah Elizabeth Steele

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


Adaptations occur at many levels, for example, from DNA sequence of regulatory elements and cellular homeostatic systems to organismal physiology and behaviour (Mayr, 1997). Established adaptations are maintained by purifying and stabilizing selection. Students of animal diversity tend to focus on higher order traits, anatomy, physiology, organismal function and interactions. The core cellular and metabolic systems of metazoans evolved early in their history and are assumed to be rather similar between groups. The housekeeping functions and core metabolic functions of cells are generally considered relatively static, especially among closely related species. The extent to which evolution shapes core cellular metabolism and physiology in animals is largely unexplored. Ecological opportunities or strong positive selection can alter basal metabolic rate, activity levels and life-history traits (e.g., life span, age of maturity, offspring number) and potentially lead to divergence in core cellular and metabolic trait systems (Norin & Metcalfe, 2019; Speakman, 2005). Furthermore, systems under stabilizing selection can also change. Developmental systems of related species may produce the same phenotype or structure, but experience drift that can alter connections and even lead to turnover of cogs in the system (True & Haag, 2001). Are the cellular functions of animals highly constrained, subject to cellular system drift or affected by positive selection? This was tackled by a new study by Kateryna Gaertner and colleagues in a From the Cover manuscript in this issue of Molecular Ecology (Gaertner et al., 2022), using fibroblasts from the closely related but ecologically distinct brown and mountain hares.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4093-4096
Number of pages4
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Other keywords

  • Animals
  • Hares
  • Phenotype


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