EVOLUTIONARY GENETICS

How new wing patterns evolve

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Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 930-931
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6276.930-a

Amazonian Heliconious butterflies show incredible diversity in wing patterning

PHOTOS: R. W. R. WALLBANK ET AL., PLOS BIOLOGY 14, 1 (15 JANUARY 2016)

Butterflies show enormous diversity in wing patterning, so much so that many species can be identified by their wing patterns alone. Differences in gene expression underlie pattern variation between closely related species. To better understand this, Wallbank et al. examined the genetic elements that control the expression of optix, which encodes a transcription factor that determines red patterning in Amazonian Heliconious butterflies. The authors identified two distinct genetic regions that affect optix expression and hence the pattern of colors on the wing. These elements appear to have evolved in separate species but were brought together when these species hybridized, demonstrating that regulatory elements introduced by new species can cause phenotypes to evolve.

PLOS Biol. 14, e1002353 (2016).

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