Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species

Kanchon K. Dasmahapatra, James R. Walters, Adriana D. Briscoe, John W. Davey, Annabel Whibley, Nicola J. Nadeau, Aleksey V. Zimin, Camilo Salazar, Laura C. Ferguson, Simon H. Martin, James J. Lewis, Sebastian Adler, Seung Joon Ahn, Dean A. Baker, Simon W. Baxter, Nicola L. Chamberlain, Chauhan Ritika, Brian A. Counterman, Tamas Dalmay, Lawrence E. GilbertKarl Gordon, David G. Heckel, Heather M. Hines, Katharina J. Hoff, Peter W.H. Holland, Emmanuelle Jacquin-Joly, Francis M. Jiggins, Robert T. Jones, Durrell D. Kapan, Paul Kersey, Gerardo Lamas, Daniel Lawson, Daniel Mapleson, Luana S. Maroja, Arnaud Martin, Simon Moxon, William J. Palmer, Riccardo Papa, Alexie Papanicolaou, Yann ick Pauchet, David A. Ray, Neil Rosser, Steven L. Salzberg, Megan A. Supple, Alison Surridge, Ayse Tenger-Trolander, Heiko Vogel, Paul A. Wilkinson, Derek Wilson, James A. Yorke, Furong Yuan, Alexi L. Balmuth, Cathlene Eland, Karim Gharbi, Marian Thomson, Richard A. Gibbs, Yi Han, Joy C. Jayaseelan, Christie Kovar, Tittu Mathew, Donna M. Muzny, Fiona Ongeri, Ling Ling Pu, Jiaxin Qu, Rebecca L. Thornton, Kim C. Worley, Yuan Qing Wu, Mauricio Linares, Mark L. Blaxter, Richard H. ffrench-Constant, Mathieu Joron, Marcus R. Kronforst, Sean P. Mullen, Robert D. Reed, Steven E. Scherer, Stephen Richards, James Mallet, W. Owen Mc Millan, Chris D. Jiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

823 Scopus citations


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 languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)94-98
Number of pages5
Issue number7405
StatePublished - 5 Jun 2012


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