There are around 1.2 million described species so far across the tree of life. They come in all kinds of shapes, forms and color patterns. Some of these are spread around the globe, while others can only be found on a single island. This incredible biodiversity is what sustains the wide variety of ecosystems found on the planet, including those needed to sustain human life. 

In our lab, we are interested in the origin of biodiversity, studying how and why it evolves. We focus our research on the evolution and adaptation of a genus of butterflies called Heliconius, a group of neotropical Lepidoptera that have been studied by evolutionary biologists for over 150 years.


We opened Casa de Domo!

A butterfly house where we can share knowledge and inspire conservation for these amazing animals and their habitats. There are…

Let’s play Memometic!

Scientists from the National Museum of Natural History in France, and their colleagues, created a game based on the interactions…

Heliconius research on the news!

Our Postdoc, Carolina Concha, was interviewed by La Estrella daily newspaper, to talk about her research on wing color patterns….

Profiled at JEZ-B!

Our Postdoc, Joe Hanly, talks about his scientific with the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B. Dr. Joe Hanly has…

Welcome back, Denise!

Dr. Dell’Aglio has returned and is here to stay for the next year and a half. Denise is a Research…

Welcome to our new lab website!

Thanks to the work of STRI’s IT and Communications teams, you can continue learning about our lab’s research, read about…


We are a fun and enthusiastic group of field biologists. You will often find us at the lab insectaries feeding caterpillars, in the forest catching butterflies, or at the lab analyzing data. 

Featured publications

Cama B, Ehlers S, Szczerbowski D, Thomas-Oates J, Jiggins CD, Schulz S, … & Dasmahapatra KK (2022) Exploitation of an ancestral pheromone biosynthetic pathway contributes to diversification in Heliconius butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 289(1979), 20220474. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.0474

Hebberecht L, Melo‐Flórez L, Young FJ, McMillan WO, & Montgomery SH (2022) The evolution of adult pollen feeding did not alter postembryonic growth in Heliconius butterflies. Ecology and Evolution, 12(6), e8999. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.8999

Dell’Aglio DD, Mena S, Mauxion R, McMillan WO, & Montgomery SH (2022) Divergence in Heliconius flight behaviour is associated with local adaptation to different forest structures. Journal of Animal Ecology, 91(4), 727-737. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13675

Dell’Aglio DD, McMillan WO, & Montgomery SH (2022) Shifting balances in the weighting of sensory modalities are predicted by divergence in brain morphology in incipient species of Heliconius butterflies. Animal Behaviour, 185, 83-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.01.003

Hanly JJ, Livraghi L, Heryanto C, McMillan WO, Jiggins CD, Gilbert LE, & Martin A (2022) A large deletion at the cortex locus eliminates butterfly wing patterning. G3, 12(4), jkac021. DOI: 10.1093/g3journal/jkac021

Ogilvie JG, Van Belleghem S, Range R, Papa R, McMillan OW, Chouteau M, & Counterman BA (2021) Balanced polymorphisms and their divergence in a Heliconius butterfly. Ecology and Evolution, 11(24), 18319-18330. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.8423

Featured story

Sol Parra

How do genes allow butterflies to mimic each other’s wing color patterns?

Young entomologist Sol Parra uses gene editing technology to understand how color pattern mimicry evolves in butterflies.

Featured video

Unrelated species of Heliconius butterflies look almost identical! Does this mean their wing color patterns evolved the same way? Our Postdoc, Carolina Concha, answers this question through her research, providing incredible insights about the genomic basis of evolutionary change.

Upcoming Lepinars

Dec 12, 2022Historical biogeography and macroevolution of neotropical butterfliesPavel Matos
(Czech Academy of Sciences, CZ)
Nov 28, 2022 Chromosome evolution and speciation in Brenthis fritillary butterfliesAlex McKintosh
(U of Edinburgh, UK)

Lepinars are biweekly seminars by Lepidoptera researchers from different parts of the world: Colombia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. We meet via Zoom at 10AM EST zone.

Contact Joana MeierGabriela Montejo-Kovacevich or Luca Livraghi if you wish to be added to the seminar email list.