Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Butterfly study sheds light on convergent evolution: Single gene controls mimicry across different species

Date:
July 22, 2011
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
For 150 years scientists have been trying to explain convergent evolution. One of the best-known examples of this is how poisonous butterflies from different species evolve to mimic each other's color patterns -- in effect joining forces to warn predators, "Don't eat us," while spreading the cost of this lesson. New research has solved part of the mystery by identifying a single gene called optix responsible for red wing color patterns in a wide variety of passion vine butterfly species.

The delicate passion vine butterfly provides UC Irvine researchers with strong evidence that evolution is governed by a relatively small number of genes.
Credit: Durrell Kapan

For 150 years scientists have been trying to explain convergent evolution. One of the best-known examples of this is how poisonous butterflies from different species evolve to mimic each other's color patterns -- in effect joining forces to warn predators, "Don't eat us," while spreading the cost of this lesson.

Now an international team of researchers led by Robert Reed, UC Irvine assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, has solved part of the mystery by identifying a single gene called optix responsible for red wing color patterns in a wide variety of passion vine butterfly species. The result of 10 years of work, the finding is detailed in a paper that appears online July 21 in the journal Science.

"This is our first peek into how mimicry and convergent evolution happen at a genetic level," Reed said. "We discovered that the same gene controls the evolution of red color patterns across remotely related butterflies.

"This is in line with emerging evidence from various animal species that evolution generally is governed by a relatively small number of genes. Out of the tens of thousands in a typical genome, it seems that only a handful tend to drive major evolutionary change over and over again."

The scientists spent several years crossbreeding and raising the delicate butterflies in large netted enclosures in the tropics so they could map the genes controlling color pattern. UCI postdoctoral researcher Riccardo Papa (now an assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras) then perfected a way to analyze the genome map by looking at gene expression in microdissected butterfly wings.

Finding a strong correlation between red color patterns and gene expression in one small region of the genome was the breakthrough that led to discovery of the gene. Population genetics studies in hybrid zones, where different color types of the same species naturally interbreed, confirmed it.

"Biologists have been asking themselves, 'Are there really so few genes that govern evolution?'" Reed said. "This is a beautiful example of how a single gene can control the evolution of complex patterns in nature. Now we want to understand why: What is it about this one gene in particular that makes it so good at driving rapid evolution?"

Papa was co-author on the study. Arnaud Martin, a UCI graduate student in ecology & evolutionary biology, also contributed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert D. Reed, Riccardo Papa, Arnaud Martin, Heather M. Hines, Brian A. Counterman, Carolina Pardo-Diaz, Chris D. Jiggins, Nicola L. Chamberlain, Marcus R. Kronforst, Rui Chen, Georg Halder, H. Frederik Nijhout, and W. Owen McMillan. Optix Drives the Repeated Convergent Evolution of Butterfly Wing Pattern Mimicry. Science, 21 July 2011 DOI: 10.1126/science.1208227

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Butterfly study sheds light on convergent evolution: Single gene controls mimicry across different species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721142416.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2011, July 22). Butterfly study sheds light on convergent evolution: Single gene controls mimicry across different species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721142416.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Butterfly study sheds light on convergent evolution: Single gene controls mimicry across different species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721142416.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

AP (July 18, 2014) — Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Speaking at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Aldrin described what he was thinking right before the historic walk. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Eye Gene Colors Butterfly Wings Red

July 21, 2011 — One toxic butterfly species may mimic the wing pattern of another toxic species in the area. By using the same signal, they send a stronger message: DON'T EAT US! Now several research teams have ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins