Yonggang Hu | Armin P. Moczek


Modification of serially homologous structures is a common avenue towards functional innovation in developmental evolution, yet ancestral affinities among serial homologues may be obscured as structure-specific modifications accumulate over time. We sought to assess the degree of homology to wings of three types of body wall projections commonly observed in scarab beetles: (i) the dorsomedial support structures found on the second and third thoracic segments of pupae, (ii) the abdominal support structures found bilaterally in most abdominal segments of pupae, and (iii) the pro-thoracic horns which depending on species and sex may be restricted to pupae or also found in adults. We functionally investigated 14 genes within, as well as two genes outside, the canonical wing gene regulatory net-work to compare and contrast their role in the formation of each of the three presumed wing serial homologues. We found 11 of 14 wing genes to be functionally required for the proper formation of lateral and dorsal support structures, respectively, and nine for the formation of prothoracic horns.At the same time, we document multiple instances of divergence in gene function across our focal structures. Collectively, our results support the hypothesis that dorsal and lateral support structures as well as prothoracic horns share a developmental origin with insect wings. Our findings suggest that the morphological and underlying gene regulatory diversification of wing serial homologues across species, life stages and segments has contributed significantly to the extraordinary diversity of arthropod appendages and outgrowths.