Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species

The Heliconius Genome Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

541 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The evolutionary importance of hybridization and introgression has long been debated. Hybrids are usually rare and unfit, but even infrequent hybridization can aid adaptation by transferring beneficial traits between species. Here we use genomic tools to investigate introgression in Heliconius, a rapidly radiating genus of neotropical butterflies widely used in studies of ecology, behaviour, mimicry and speciation. We sequenced the genome of Heliconius melpomene and compared it with other taxa to investigate chromosomal evolution in Lepidoptera and gene flow among multiple Heliconius species and races. Among 12, 669 predicted genes, biologically important expansions of families of chemosensory and Hox genes are particularly noteworthy. Chromosomal organization has remained broadly conserved since the Cretaceous period, when butterflies split from the Bombyx (silkmoth) lineage. Using genomic resequencing, we show hybrid exchange of genes between three co-mimics, Heliconius melpomene, Heliconius timareta and Heliconius elevatus, especially at two genomic regions that control mimicry pattern. We infer that closely related Heliconius species exchange protective colour-pattern genes promiscuously, implying that hybridization has an important role in adaptive radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-98
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume487
Issue number7405
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

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Butterflies
Bombyx
Genome
Genes
Lepidoptera
Gene Flow
Homeobox Genes
Ecology
Color
Organizations
Radiation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Cite this

The Heliconius Genome Consortium. / Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. In: Nature. 2012 ; Vol. 487, No. 7405. pp. 94-98.
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Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. / The Heliconius Genome Consortium.

In: Nature, Vol. 487, No. 7405, 01.01.2012, p. 94-98.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - The evolutionary importance of hybridization and introgression has long been debated. Hybrids are usually rare and unfit, but even infrequent hybridization can aid adaptation by transferring beneficial traits between species. Here we use genomic tools to investigate introgression in Heliconius, a rapidly radiating genus of neotropical butterflies widely used in studies of ecology, behaviour, mimicry and speciation. We sequenced the genome of Heliconius melpomene and compared it with other taxa to investigate chromosomal evolution in Lepidoptera and gene flow among multiple Heliconius species and races. Among 12, 669 predicted genes, biologically important expansions of families of chemosensory and Hox genes are particularly noteworthy. Chromosomal organization has remained broadly conserved since the Cretaceous period, when butterflies split from the Bombyx (silkmoth) lineage. Using genomic resequencing, we show hybrid exchange of genes between three co-mimics, Heliconius melpomene, Heliconius timareta and Heliconius elevatus, especially at two genomic regions that control mimicry pattern. We infer that closely related Heliconius species exchange protective colour-pattern genes promiscuously, implying that hybridization has an important role in adaptive radiation.

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