Genitalia are recognized as the most divergent structures, especially those of males. Their rapid rates of evolution and extraordinary anatomic and functional complexity have been widely approached in ecological and evolutionary studies. Despite the growing interest in these structures, different gaps have been repeatedly pointed out in recent reviews, including: (1) a disproportional focus on male structures, (2) a restriction to model organisms and (3) a paucity of evolutionary studies on the genetic architecture behind genital development (evo-devo). The latter is particularly interesting, since evo-devo approaches allow testing how the development of traits, from the egg to the adult, influence the evolution of the same traits throughout generations and lineages in evolutionary time. Particularly, studies on developmental genetics will be crucial to elucidate the mechanisms underlying two of the most prevalent and enigmatic patterns in genital evolution: male-female coevolution and the disproportional levels of elaboration observed between the sexes. This project aims to act simultaneously in the three gaps, unraveling the genetic bases of genital development in males and females of non-model organisms (pentatomids). Specifically, we will ask: (1) What are genetic bases of genital coevolution? (2) What genetic features during development allow male structures to evolve faster and experience greater elaboration? (3) How conserved are the genes behind genital development, in terms of both expression and sequence, through different lineages of Pentatomidae? We will test different hypotheses combining morphological studies of immatures, modern techniques of RNA sequencing and RNA interference, and previous studies on genital evolution in pentatomids.
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