Genomic Analyses Reveal Association of ASIP with a Recurrently evolving Adaptive Color Pattern in Frogs

Sandra Goutte, Imtiyaz Hariyani, Kole Deroy Utzinger, Yann Bourgeois, Stéphane Boissinot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traits shared among distantly related lineages are indicators of common evolutionary constraints, at the ecological, physiological, or molecular level. Here, we show that the vertebral stripe, a cryptic color pattern, has evolved hundreds of times in the evolutionary history of anurans (frogs and toads) and is favored in terrestrial habitats. Using a genome-wide association study, we demonstrate that variation near the Agouti signaling protein gene (ASIP) is responsible for the different vertebral stripe phenotypes in the African grass frog Ptychadena robeensis. RNAseq and real-time quantitative PCR revealed that differential expression of the gene and an adjacent long non-coding RNA is linked to patterning in this species. Surprisingly, and although the stripe phenotypes are shared with closely related species, we found that the P. robeensis alleles are private to the species and unlikely to evolve under long-term balancing selection, thus indicating that the vertebral stripe phenotypes result from parallel evolution within the group. Our findings demonstrate that this cryptic color pattern evolved rapidly and recurrently in terrestrial anurans, and therefore constitutes an ideal system to study repeated evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbermsac235
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • Agouti signaling protein
  • Anura
  • adaptation
  • color polymorphism
  • repeated evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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