Abstract Convergent evolution is pervasive in nature, but it is poorly understood how various constraints and natural selection limit the diversity of evolvable phenotypes. Here, we analyze the transcriptome across fruiting body development to understand the independent evolution of complex multicellularity in the two largest clades of fungi—the Agarico- and Pezizomycotina. Despite >650 My of divergence between these clades, we find that very similar sets of genes have convergently been co-opted for complex multicellularity, followed by expansions of their gene families by duplications. Over 82% of shared multicellularity-related gene families were expanding in both clades, indicating a high prevalence of convergence also at the gene family level. This convergence is coupled with a rich inferred repertoire of multicellularity-related genes in the most recent common ancestor of the Agarico- and Pezizomycotina, consistent with the hypothesis that the coding capacity of ancestral fungal genomes might have promoted the repeated evolution of complex multicellularity. We interpret this repertoire as an indication of evolutionary predisposition of fungal ancestors for evolving complex multicellular fruiting bodies. Our work suggests that evolutionary convergence may happen not only when organisms are closely related or are under similar selection pressures, but also when ancestral genomic repertoires render certain evolutionary trajectories more likely than others, even across large phylogenetic distances.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology