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Curr Opin Insect Sci. 2016 Oct;17:24-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cois.2016.05.013. Epub 2016 May 27.

Genes controlling mimetic colour pattern variation in butterflies.

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Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK. Electronic address:


Butterfly wing patterns are made up of arrays of coloured scales. There are two genera in which within-species variation in wing patterning is common and has been investigated at the molecular level, Heliconius and Papilio. Both of these species have mimetic relationships with other butterfly species that increase their protection from predators. Heliconius have a 'tool-kit' of five genetic loci that control colour pattern, three of which have been identified at the gene level, and which have been repeatedly used to modify colour pattern by different species in the genus. By contrast, the three Papilio species that have been investigated each have different genetic mechanisms controlling their polymorphic wing patterns.

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