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Nature. 2014 Oct 16;514(7522):317-21. doi: 10.1038/nature13812. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration.

Author information

  • 11] Key Laboratory of Insect Developmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200032, China [2] Department of Ecology &Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA [3] Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.
  • 2Department of Ecology &Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.
  • 31] Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA [2] Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • 4Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
  • 5Departamento de Botánica, Ecología y Fisiología Vegetal, Universidad de Córdoba, 14071 Córdoba, Spain.
  • 6School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.
  • 7Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.
  • 8Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.
  • 9Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.

Abstract

The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is famous for its spectacular annual migration across North America, recent worldwide dispersal, and orange warning colouration. Despite decades of study and broad public interest, we know little about the genetic basis of these hallmark traits. Here we uncover the history of the monarch's evolutionary origin and global dispersal, characterize the genes and pathways associated with migratory behaviour, and identify the discrete genetic basis of warning colouration by sequencing 101 Danaus genomes from around the globe. The results rewrite our understanding of this classic system, showing that D. plexippus was ancestrally migratory and dispersed out of North America to occupy its broad distribution. We find the strongest signatures of selection associated with migration centre on flight muscle function, resulting in greater flight efficiency among migratory monarchs, and that variation in monarch warning colouration is controlled by a single myosin gene not previously implicated in insect pigmentation.

PMID:
25274300
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC4331202
Free PMC Article
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