Int. J. Dev. Biol. 40: 885 - 893 (1996)
© UPV/EHU Press

What insights into the developmental traits of urodeles does the study of interspecific hybrids provide?

S R Voss and H B Shaffer

Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.

ABSTRACT Natural and artificial hybrids represent an important source of material for developmental and evolutionary studies of urodeles. We review the available literature on hybrid salamanders, emphasizing the unique developmental insights that these organisms provide. Of particular interest is the application of new molecular tools to identify DNA markers for traditional characters in developmental research, and we discuss our own results using Bulk Segregant Analysis to identify RAPD markers for the white phenotype in the axolotl. We pay particular attention to the inferences that can be drawn from the many disparate crosses between ambystomatid salamanders that vary in their metamorphic response. These crossing experiments suggest that 1) metamorphosis is dominant to paedomorphosis, 2) that different ambystomatids use different genetic mechanisms to block metamorphosis and become sexually mature, larval paedomorphs, and 3) metamorphosis may be controlled by a few genetic loci. As increasingly sophisticated molecular approaches are applied to these and other hybrid crossing schemes, it should be possible to understand the mechanistic basis of a wide variety of developmental characters that differentiate urodele species.