Papers in the Biological Sciences


Document Type


Date of this Version



Integrative Organismal Biology , pp. 1–15


Open access.


Genome size varies ∼100,000-fold across eukaryotes and has long been hypothesized to be influenced by meta- morphosis in animals. Transposable element accumulation has been identified as a major driver of increase, but the nature of constraints limiting the size of genomes has remained unclear, even as traits such as cell size and rate of development co-vary strongly with genome size. Salamanders, which possess diverse metamorphic and non-metamorphic life histories, join the lung- fish in having the largest vertebrate genomes—3 to 40 times that of humans—as well as the largest range of variation in genome size. We tested 13 biologically-inspired hypotheses exploring how the form of metamorphosis imposes varying constraints on genome expansion in a broadly representative phylogeny containing 118 species of salamanders. We show that metamorphosis during which animals undergo the most extensive and synchronous remodeling imposes the most severe constraint against genome expansion, with the severity of constraint decreasing with reduced extent and synchronicity of remodeling. More generally, our work demonstrates the potential for broader interpretation of phylogenetic comparative analysis in exploring the balance of multiple evolutionary pressures shaping phenotypic evolution.

Included in

Biology Commons