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Genetics. 2008 Nov;180(3):1567-77. doi: 10.1534/genetics.107.082982. Epub 2008 Sep 14.

Convergent evolution in the genetic basis of Müllerian mimicry in heliconius butterflies.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


The neotropical butterflies Heliconius melpomene and H. erato are Müllerian mimics that display the same warningly colored wing patterns in local populations, yet pattern diversity between geographic regions. Linkage mapping has previously shown convergent red wing phenotypes in these species are controlled by loci on homologous chromosomes. Here, AFLP bulk segregant analysis using H. melpomene crosses identified genetic markers tightly linked to two red wing-patterning loci. These markers were used to screen a H. melpomene BAC library and a tile path was assembled spanning one locus completely and part of the second. Concurrently, a similar strategy was used to identify a BAC clone tightly linked to the locus controlling the mimetic red wing phenotypes in H. erato. A methionine rich storage protein (MRSP) gene was identified within this BAC clone, and comparative genetic mapping shows red wing color loci are in homologous regions of the genome of H. erato and H. melpomene. Subtle differences in these convergent phenotypes imply they evolved independently using somewhat different developmental routes, but are nonetheless regulated by the same switch locus. Genetic mapping of MRSP in a third related species, the "tiger" patterned H. numata, has no association with wing patterning and shows no evidence for genomic translocation of wing-patterning loci.

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