The Importance of Gene Rearrangement in Evolution: Evidence from Studies on Rates of Chromosomal, Protein, and Anatomical Evolution
We have compared the relative rates of protein evolution and chromosomal evolution in frogs and mammals. The average rate of change in chromosome number has been about 20 times faster in mammals than in frogs. Whereas it takes only 3.5 million years, on the average, for a pair of mammal species to develop a difference in chromosome number, the corresponding period for frogs is 70 million years. In contrast, the rate of protein evolution in mammals has been roughly equal to that in frogs. The rapid rate of gene rearrangement in mammals parallels both their rapid anatomical evolution and their rapid evolutionary loss of the potential for interspecific hybridization. Thus, gene rearrangements may be more important than point mutations as sources for evolutionary changes in anatomy and way of life.