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Phenotypic Variability in Canalized Developmental Systems

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5 Author(s)

The evolution of nervous systems has been relatively conservative despite a large diversity of behavior. Novel behaviors appear to be produced during evolution by changing synaptic connectivity (Edwards and Palka 1991, Shaw and Meinertzhagen 1986, and Nishikawa et al. 1992). Due to a process of canalization, in which the development of organisms becomes buffered against genetic and environmental changes, phenotypic variation is reduced (Waddington 1942). Therefore, we explore phenotypic variability in simulations of neural development in which the developmental pathways have become canalized. Variation is determined under point mutations and gene knockouts. Although a genetic regulatory network utilizing activation and controlling a single process of neural development is evolvable and can become canalized, large genetic perturbations do not result in increased phenotypic variability as expected from related work (Bergman and Siegal 2003).