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  1. Abstract The placenta is a complex organ that shows high morphological diversity. Among fish, the first vertebrates that have evolved a placenta, the family Poeciliidae exhibits very diverse modes of maternal provisioning even among congeneric species. Here, we investigated the embryonic growth curve across seven recently-described species of the highly diverse genus Phalloceros (Eigenmann, 1907). We also investigated possible intraspecific differences and whether other female characteristics affected embryo mass. We found that embryo mass decreased until around stage 20 and then increased, resulting in a 1.5 to 3-fold mass gain from fertilization to birth. Embryo mass changed non-linearly with stage of development and was affected by species identity (or locality) and female somatic dry mass. This initial loss then gain of embryonic mass during development is unique among other Poeciliidae species and was conserved across populations and species, even though size at birth can vary. Other species instead either lose mass if they lack placentas or gain mass exponentially if they have placentas. The Phalloceros mode of maternal provisioning could thus represent a different form from that seen in other species of Poeciliidae.
  2. Teeling, Emma (Ed.)
    Abstract The evolutionary origin of complex organs challenges empirical study because most organs evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. The placenta of live-bearing fish in the family Poeciliidae represents a unique opportunity to study the evolutionary origin of complex organs, because in this family a placenta evolved at least nine times independently. It is currently unknown whether this repeated evolution is accompanied by similar, repeated, genomic changes in placental species. Here, we compare whole genomes of 26 poeciliid species representing six out of nine independent origins of placentation. Evolutionary rate analysis revealed that the evolution of the placenta coincides with convergent shifts in the evolutionary rate of 78 protein-coding genes, mainly observed in transporter- and vesicle-located genes. Furthermore, differences in sequence conservation showed that placental evolution coincided with similar changes in 76 noncoding regulatory elements, occurring primarily around genes that regulate development. The unexpected high occurrence of GATA simple repeats in the regulatory elements suggests an important function for GATA repeats in developmental gene regulation. The distinction in molecular evolution observed, with protein-coding parallel changes more often found in metabolic and structural pathways, compared with regulatory change more frequently found in developmental pathways, offers a compelling model for complexmore »trait evolution in general: changing the regulation of otherwise highly conserved developmental genes may allow for the evolution of complex traits.« less
  3. Abstract Placentation evolved many times independently in vertebrates. While the core functions of all placentas are similar, we know less about how this similarity extends to the molecular level. Here we study Poeciliopsis, a unique genus of live-bearing fish that have independently evolved complex placental structures at least three times. The maternal follicle is a key component of these structures. It envelops yolk rich eggs and is morphologically simple in lecithotrophic species, but has elaborate villous structures in matrotrophic species. Through sequencing the follicle transcriptome of a matrotrophic, P. retropinna, and lecithotrophic, P. turrubarensis, species we found genes known to be critical for placenta function expressed in both species despite their difference in complexity. Additionally, when we compare the transcriptome of different river populations of P. retropinna, known to vary in maternal provisioning, we find differential expression of secretory genes expressed specifically in the top layer of villi cells in the maternal follicle. This provides some of the first evidence that the placental structures of Poeciliopsis function using a secretory mechanism rather than direct contact with maternal circulation. Finally, when we look at the expression of placenta proteins at the maternal-fetal interface of a larger sampling of Poeciliopsis species, wemore »find expression of key maternal and fetal placenta proteins in their cognate tissue types of all species, but follicle expression of Prolactin is restricted to only matrotrophic species. Taken together, we suggest that all Poeciliopsis follicles are poised for placenta function, but require expression of key genes to form secretory villi.« less