Navigation Links
Research reveals how butterflies copy their neighbors to fool birds
Date:8/14/2011

The mystery of how a butterfly has changed its wing patterns to mimic neighbouring species and avoid being eaten by birds has been solved by a team of European scientists. The study is published today (14 August 2011) in the journal Nature.

The greatest evolutionary thinkers, including Wallace, Bates and Darwin, have all wondered how butterflies that taste bad to birds have evolved the same patterns of warning colouration. Now for the first time, researchers led by the CNRS (Musum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris) and the University of Exeter (UK) have shown how butterflies perform this amazing trick, known as 'Mllerian mimicry'.

Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the study focused on the Amazonian species Heliconius numata, which mimics several other butterfly species at a single site in the rainforest. One population of Heliconius numata can therefore feature many distinct wing colour patterns resembling those of other butterflies, such as the Monarch's relatives Melinaea, which are unpalatable to birds. This acts as a disguise, protecting them against predators.

The researchers located and sequenced the chromosomal region responsible for the wing patterns in H. numata. The butterfly's wing-pattern variation is controlled by a single region on a single chromosome, containing several genes which control the different elements of the pattern. Known as a 'supergene', this clustering allows genetic combinations that are favoured for their mimetic resemblance to be maintained, while preventing combinations that produce non-mimetic patterns from arising. Supergenes are responsible for a wide range of what we see in nature: from the shape of primrose flowers to the colour and pattern of snail shells.

The researchers found that three versions of the same chromosome coexist in this species, each version controlling distinct wing-pattern forms. This has resulted in butterflies that look completely different from one another, despite having the same DNA.

"We were blown away by what we found," said Dr Mathieu Joron of the Musum National d'Histoire Naturelle, who led the research. "These butterflies are the 'transformers' of the insect world. But instead of being able to turn from a car into a robot with the flick of switch, a single genetic switch allows these insects to morph into several different mimetic forms it is amazing and the stuff of science fiction. Now we are starting to understand how this switch can have such a pervasive effect."

Professor Richard ffrench-Constant of the University of Exeter added: "This phenomenon has puzzled scientists for centuries including Darwin himself. Indeed, it was the original observations of mimicry that helped frame the concept of natural selection. Now that we have the right tools we are able to understand the reason for this amazing transformation: by changing just one gene, the butterfly is able to fool its predators by mimicking a range of different butterflies that taste bad."

This single supergene also appears important in melanism in other species, including moths. In April 2011, a team led by Liverpool University explained in the journal Science how the Peppered Moth developed its black wings in nineteenth-century Britain's sooty industrial environment.

"This supergene region not only allows insects to mimic each other, as in Heliconius, but also to mimic the soot blackened background of the industrial revolution it's a gene that really packs an evolutionary punch," added Professor Richard ffrench-Constant.


'/>"/>

Contact: Sarah Hoyle
s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk
44-139-272-2062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Toronto researchers first to discover new genetic clue in the development of rheumatoid arthritis
2. Visiting researcher at IU leads international team in formal identification of new fungi class
3. OU-led research team receives $1.28 million grant from DOE
4. Researchers decode workings of mysterious, but critical TB drug
5. Researchers fight cholera with computer forecasting
6. Most plant species important in various and varying ecosystems: ISU research
7. Vanderbilt researchers, international team, uncover genes linked to multiple sclerosis
8. Narcissism may benefit the young, researchers report; but older adults? Not so much
9. Groundbreaking research reveals clues to the formation of hearts, intestines and other key organs
10. York U researchers zero in on protein that may help treat obesity, diabetes
11. U. Iowa research team finds new genetic cause of blinding eye disease
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Research reveals how butterflies copy their neighbors to fool birds
(Date:5/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled technology to ... display is the latest premium product recently added to the range of products distributed ... ... ... Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... -- WearablesResearch.com , a brand of Troubadour Research ... the Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. A ... to a program where they would receive discounts for ... "We were surprised to see that so ... , CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there are ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... BANGALORE, India , April 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), and ... global partnership that will provide end customers with ... banking and payment services.      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130122/589162 ... area for financial services, but it also plays a fundamental ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016  Liquid Biotech USA ... of a Sponsored Research Agreement with The University ... (CTCs) from cancer patients.  The funding will be ... correlate with clinical outcomes in cancer patients undergoing ... then be employed to support the design of ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of ... the Cary 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the ... of the spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...   Boston Biomedical , an industry leader ... target cancer stemness pathways, announced that its lead ... Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ... gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin is an orally ... stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, and is currently ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to ... AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval of the ... Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods perform comparably ...
Breaking Biology Technology: