Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genome research reveals key behind one butterfly’s ability to mimic another

Date:
May 16, 2012
Source:
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences
Summary:
Scientists have discovered promiscuous sharing of large regions of DNA code among species by sequencing the genome of a South American butterfly.

Based on the new sequence, scientists found that different species copy each other’s wing patterns by exchanging genes, a process thought to be very rare, especially in animals.
Credit: Mathieu Joron

An international consortium of researchers, including Boston University Assistant Professor of Biology Sean Mullen, has discovered promiscuous sharing of large regions of DNA code among species by sequencing the genome of a South American butterfly.

Related Articles


A first for science, the genome sequencing work is the product of an international group of researchers, dubbed the Heliconius Genome Consortium, who examined the genome of the Postman butterfly (Heliconius melpomene), a well-known species that lives in the Peruvian Amazon. Using that data as a guide, they then examined the genetic make-up of two other closely-related butterfly species -- Heliconius timareta and Heliconius elevatus.

All three species were selected for the study because they each share similar color patterns on their wings as a way to ward off predators.

The Consortium's surprising finding, as described in a paper published May 16 in Nature, is that the various species all look similar because they share the parts of their DNA that deal with color patterns.

"The results are significant because they represent the first conclusive demonstration that adaptive introgression, or interspecific gene flow, facilitates the establishment of novel mimetic wing patterns, which in turn has the potential to promote speciation," says Mullen.

Boston University, along with the other senior consortium members, funded the data collection. Mullen was directly involved in the gene annotation process that supported the genome assembly and assisted in the writing and editing of the manuscript.

This landmark effort to sequence the genome of a South American butterfly has revealed the key behind its unusual ability to mimic other butterflies.

Heliconius butterflies exhibit an extraordinary amount of color-pattern mimicry between the species, and with species in other groups. Researchers have found that species share the parts of the genome that code for color pattern loci, with a major impact on the survival of these butterflies in the wild.

The genetic sharing between species, researchers believe, is the result of hybridization. Considered extremely rare, particularly in animals, hybridization occurs when insects of two different species interbreed in the wild.

The resulting hybrid offspring share traits with both mother and father. Though often considered evolutionary dead-end, hybrids occasionally interbreed with a parent species, in the process introducing new genes that can help populations adapt to new or changing environments.

"What we show is that one butterfly species can gain its protective colour pattern genes ready-made from a different species by hybridizing (or interbreeding) with it -- a much faster process than having to evolve one's colour patterns from scratch," says Kanchon Dasmahapatra, a postdoctoral researcher at the University College of London's Department of Genetics, Evolution, and Environment, and a co-author of the paper.

"This project really changes how we think about adaptation in general," says Marcus Kronforst, a Bauer Fellow at Harvard, who participated in the sequencing. "Evolutionary biologists often wonder whether different species use the same genes to generate similar traits, like the mimetic wing patterns of Heliconius butterflies. This study shows us that sometimes different species not only use the same genes, but the exact same stretches of DNA, which they pass around by hybridization."

A total of 80 researchers in 32 research universities and institutions from eight countries worked on this genome project, while a subset of nine laboratories funded the sequencing of the 290 million DNA bases using new high-throughput technologies, allowing the work to proceed without major dedicated grant funding.

Sequencing work for the Consortium was carried out at the Baylor College of Medicine, who performed the main reference sequence, and at the University of Edinburgh, GenePool, where the resequencing was performed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. The Heliconius Genome Consortium. Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature, 2012 DOI: 10.1038/nature11041

Cite This Page:

Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Genome research reveals key behind one butterfly’s ability to mimic another." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120516135502.htm>.
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. (2012, May 16). Genome research reveals key behind one butterfly’s ability to mimic another. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120516135502.htm
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Genome research reveals key behind one butterfly’s ability to mimic another." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120516135502.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Ancient techniques of growing greens with fish and water are well ahead of Toronto bylaws. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) Learn how to make a mixed green salad topped with a pan-seared camembert cheese in only a minute! Music: Courtesy of Audio Network. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) It looks like this 2-month-old Husky puppy and the family ferret are going to be the best of friends. Look at how much fun they&apos;re having together! Credit to &apos;Vira&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
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


Colorful Butterflies Increase Their Odds of Survival by Sharing Traits

May 16, 2012 Bright black-and-red butterflies that flit across the sunlit edges of Amazonian rain forests are natural hedonists, and it does them good, according to new genetic ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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