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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.
STRI special events May 2022
The World of Pollinators
In celebration of World Bee Day, Panama’s Summit Municipal Park and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) participated in an event on Sunday May 22nd called The World of Pollinators, to educate visitors about bees and other essential pollinators and their role in sustaining biodiversity.
Is evolution predictable?
Butterflies take different paths to arrive at the same color pattern
Unrelated butterflies may have the same wing patterns. These patterns warn off predators and help suitors find the right mate. But if wing patterns in each species evolved the same way, knocking out an important gene should have the same effect in both. Carolina Concha and her team discovered that knocking out the WntA gene results in different effects in co-mimics, so the two species evolved the same pattern via different pathways.
Stories from social media
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.
The video animations were done by Zach Welty based on Carolina’s et al. paper:
Interplay between developmental flexibility and determinism in the evolution of mimetic Heliconius wing patterns (2019) Current Biology, 29(23), 3996-4009. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.10.010.