Although ontogenetic changes in body shape and its associated allometry has been studied for over a century, essentially nothing is known about their underlying genetic and developmental mechanisms. One of the reasons for this ignorance is the unavailability of a conceptual framework to formulate the experimental design for data collection and statistical models for data analyses. We developed a framework model for unraveling the genetic machinery for ontogenetic changes of allometry. The model incorporates the mathematical aspects of ontogenetic growth and allometry into a maximum likelihood framework for quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping. As a quantitative platform, the model allows for the testing of a number of biologically meaningful hypotheses to explore the pleiotropic basis of the QTL that regulate ontogeny and allometry. Simulation studies and real data analysis of a live example in soybean have been performed to investigate the statistical behavior of the model and validate its practical utilization. The statistical model proposed will help to study the genetic architecture of complex phenotypes and, therefore, gain better insights into the mechanistic regulation for developmental patterns and processes in organisms.
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