Evolution of genetic regulatory mechanisms are very intriguing. Traditionally it was believed that a change in protein coding gene can cause alternate forms of proteins and if beneficial (selected for), these proteins can cause new forms of life to emerge.
However, comparative phylogenetics has demonstrated that most coding genes, including that of humans and chimps, are conserved. Therefore, the variations in life forms are probably due to changes in regulatory elements that influence gene expression in many ways. Recently Wired featured variations in spiders (click on image below). I was astonished by how variable they are. We also know that butterflies have variability in their body patterns. It would be really interesting to study the regulatory mechanisms that influence such variations in the spiders.
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