Comparative population genetics of a mimicry locus among hybridizing Heliconius butterfly species


Dr. Ryan Hill: 0000-0001-8513-6545

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Biological Sciences





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The comimetic Heliconius butterfly species pair, H. erato and H. melpomene, appear to use a conserved Mendelian switch locus to generate their matching red wing patterns. Here we investigate whether H. cydno and H. pachinus, species closely related to H. melpomene, use this same switch locus to generate their highly divergent red and brown color pattern elements. Using an F2 intercross between H. cydno and H. pachinus, we first map the genomic positions of two novel red/brown wing pattern elements; the G locus, which controls the presence of red vs brown at the base of the ventral wings, and the Br locus, which controls the presence vs absence of a brown oval pattern on the ventral hind wing. The results reveal that the G locus is tightly linked to markers in the genomic interval that controls red wing pattern elements of H. erato and H. melpomene. Br is on the same linkage group but approximately 26 cM away. Next, we analyze fine-scale patterns of genetic differentiation and linkage disequilibrium throughout the G locus candidate interval in H. cydno, H. pachinus and H. melpomene, and find evidence for elevated differentiation between H. cydno and H. pachinus, but no localized signature of association. Overall, these results indicate that the G locus maps to the same interval as the locus controlling red patterning in H. melpomene and H. erato. This, in turn, suggests that the genes controlling red pattern elements may be homologous across Heliconius, supporting the hypothesis that Heliconius butterflies use a limited suite of conserved genetic switch loci to generate both convergent and divergent wing patterns.