Differential timing of gene expression regulation between leptocephali of the two Anguilla eel species in the Sargasso Sea

Louis Bernatchez, Jerome St-Cyr, Eric Normandeau, Gregory Maes, Thomas Als, Svetlana Kalujnaia, Gordon Cramb, Martin Castonguay, Michael Hansen

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11 Citations (Scopus)
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The unique life-history characteristics of North Atlantic catadromous eels have
long intrigued evolutionary biologists, especially with respect to mechanisms that could explain their persistence as two ecologically very similar but reproductively and geographically distinct species. Differential developmental schedules during young larval stages have commonly been hypothesized to represent such a key mechanism. We performed a comparative analysis of gene expression by means of microarray experiments with American and European eel leptocephali collected in the Sargasso Sea in order to test the alternative hypotheses of (1) differential timing of gene expression regulation during early development versus (2) species-specific differences in expression of particular genes. Our results provide much stronger support for the former hypothesis since no gene showed consistent significant differences in expression levels between the two species. In contrast, 146 genes showed differential timings of expression between species, although the observed expression level differences between the species were generally small. Consequently, species-specific gene expression regulation seems to play a minor role in species differentiation. Overall, these results show that the basis of the early developmental divergence between the American and European eel is probably influenced by differences in the timing of gene expression regulation for genes involved in a large array of biological functions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-467
Number of pages9
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online date1 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Anguilla
  • Microarray
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Speciation
  • Transcriptome


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