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Two sisters in the same dress: Heliconius cryptic species

Smithsonian Libraries
Background: Sister species divergence and reproductive isolation commonly results from ecological adaptation. In mimetic Heliconius butterflies, shifts in colour pattern contribute to pre- and post-mating reproductive isolation and are commonly correlated with speciation. Closely related mimetic species are therefore not expected, as they should lack several important sources of reproductive isolation. Results: Here we present phenotypic, behavioral and genetic evidence for the coexistence of two sympatric 'cryptic' species near Florencia in the eastern Andes of Colombia that share the same orange rayed colour pattern. These represent H. melpomene malleti and a novel taxon in the H. cydno group, here designated as novel race of Heliconius timareta, Heliconius timareta florencia. No-choice mating experiments show that these sympatric forms have strong assortative mating (approximate to 96%) despite great similarity in colour pattern, implying enhanced divergence in pheromonal signals. Conclusion: We hypothesize that these species might have resulted from recent convergence in colour pattern, perhaps facilitated by hybrid introgression of wing pattern genes.

Pervasive genetic associations between traits causing reproductive isolation in Heliconius butterflies

Smithsonian Libraries
Ecological speciation proceeds through the accumulation of divergent traits that contribute to reproductive isolation, but in the face of gene flow traits that characterize incipient species may become disassociated through recombination. Heliconius butterflies are well known for bright mimetic warning patterns that are also used in mate recognition and cause both pre- and post-mating isolation between divergent taxa. Sympatric sister taxa representing the final stages of speciation, such as Heliconius cydno and Heliconius melpomene, also differ in ecology and hybrid fertility. We examine mate preference and sterility among offspring of crosses between these species and demonstrate the clustering of Mendelian colour pattern loci and behavioural loci that contribute to reproductive isolation. In particular, male preference for red patterns is associated with the locus responsible for the red forewing band. Two further colour pattern loci are associated, respectively, with female mating outcome and hybrid sterility. This genetic architecture in which ‘speciation genes’ are clustered in the genome can facilitate two controversial models of speciation, namely divergence in the face of gene flow and hybrid speciation.

Interspecific sexual attraction because of convergence in warning colouration: is there a conflict between natural and sexual selection in mimetic species?

Smithsonian Libraries
Abstract When species converge in their colour patterns because of mimicry, and those patterns are also used in mate recognition, there is a probability of conflicting selection pressures. Closely related species that mimic one another are particularly likely to face such confusion because of similarities in their courtship behaviour and ecology. We conducted experiments in greenhouse conditions to study interspecific attraction between two mimetic butterfly species, Heliconius erato and Heliconius melpomene. Both species spent considerable time approaching and courting females of the co-mimic species. Experiments using wing models demonstrated the importance of colour pattern in this interspecific attraction. Although males of H. melpomene were attracted to their co-mimics as much as to their own females, H. erato males were more efficient at distinguishing conspecifics, possibly using wing odours. Although preliminary, these results suggest that the use of additional cues may have evolved in H. erato to reduce the cost of convergence in visual signals with H. melpomene. Overall, our results showed that there might be a cost of mimetic convergence because of a reduction in the efficiency of species recognition. Such cost may contribute to explain the apparently stable diversity in Mullerian mimetic patterns in many tropical butterfly assemblages.

Adaptive Introgression across Species Boundaries in Heliconius Butterflies

Smithsonian Libraries
It is widely documented that hybridisation occurs between many closely related species, but the importance of introgression in adaptive evolution remains unclear, especially in animals. Here, we have examined the role of introgressive hybridisation in transferring adaptations between mimetic Heliconius butterflies, taking advantage of the recent identification of a gene regulating red wing patterns in this genus. By sequencing regions both linked and unlinked to the red colour locus, we found a region that displays an almost perfect genotype by phenotype association across four species, H. melpomene, H. cydno, H. timareta, and H. heurippa. This particular segment is located 70 kb downstream of the red colour specification gene optix, and coalescent analysis indicates repeated introgression of adaptive alleles from H. melpomene into the H. cydno species clade. Our analytical methods complement recent genome scale data for the same region and suggest adaptive introgression has a crucial role in generating adaptive wing colour diversity in this group of butterflies.

Partial Complementarity of the Mimetic Yellow Bar Phenotype in Heliconius Butterflies

Smithsonian Libraries
Heliconius butterflies are an excellent system for understanding the genetic basis of phenotypic change. Here we document surprising diversity in the genetic control of a common phenotype. Two disjunct H. erato populations have each recruited the Cr and/or Sd loci that control similar yellow hindwing patterns, but the alleles involved partially complement one another indicating either multiple origins for the patterning alleles or developmental drift in genetic control of similar patterns. We show that in these H. erato populations cr and sd are epistatically interacting and that the parental origin of alleles can explain phenotypes of backcross individuals. In contrast, mimetic H. melpomene populations with identical phenotypes (H. m. rosina and H. m. amaryllis) do not show genetic complementation (F(1)s and F(2)s are phenotypically identical to parentals). Finally, we report hybrid female inviability in H. m. melpomene x H. m. rosina crosses (previously only female infertility had been reported) and presence of standing genetic variation for alternative color alleles at the Yb locus in true breeding H. melpomene melpomene populations (expressed when in a different genomic background) that could be an important source of variation for the evolution of novel phenotypes or a result of developmental drift. Although recent work has emphasized the simple genetic control of wing pattern in Heliconius, we show there is underlying complexity in the allelic variation and epistatic interactions between major patterning loci.

Genomic Hotspots for Adaptation: The Population Genetics of Mullerian Mimicry in the Heliconius melpomene Clade

Smithsonian Libraries
Wing patterning in Heliconius butterflies is a longstanding example of both Mullerian mimicry and phenotypic radiation under strong natural selection. The loci controlling such patterns are "hotspots" for adaptive evolution with great allelic diversity across different species in the genus. We characterise nucleotide variation, genotype-by-phenotype associations, linkage disequilibrium, and candidate gene expression at two loci and across multiple hybrid zones in Heliconius melpomene and relatives. Alleles at HmB control the presence or absence of the red forewing band, while alleles at HmYb control the yellow hindwing bar. Across HmYb two regions, separated by similar to 100 kb, show significant genotype-by-phenotype associations that are replicated across independent hybrid zones. In contrast, at HmB a single peak of association indicates the likely position of functional sites at three genes, encoding a kinesin, a G-protein coupled receptor, and an mRNA splicing factor. At both HmYb and HmB there is evidence for enhanced linkage disequilibrium (LD) between associated sites separated by up to 14 kb, suggesting that multiple sites are under selection. However, there was no evidence for reduced variation or deviations from neutrality that might indicate a recent selective sweep, consistent with these alleles being relatively old. Of the three genes showing an association with the HmB locus, the kinesin shows differences in wing disc expression between races that are replicated in the co-mimic, Heliconius erato, providing striking evidence for parallel changes in gene expression between Mullerian co-mimics. Wing patterning loci in Heliconius melpomene therefore show a haplotype structure maintained by selection, but no evidence for a recent selective sweep. The complex genetic pattern contrasts with the simple genetic basis of many adaptive traits studied previously, but may provide a better model for most adaptation in natural populations that has arisen over millions rather than tens of years.

Wing patterning gene redefines the mimetic history of Heliconius butterflies

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The mimetic butterflies Heliconius erato and Heliconius melpomene have undergone parallel radiations to form a near-identical patchwork of over 20 different wing-pattern races across the Neotropics. Previous molecular phylogenetic work on these radiations has suggested that similar but geographically disjunct color patterns arose multiple times independently in each species. The neutral markers used in these studies, however, can move freely across color pattern boundaries, and therefore might not represent the history of the adaptive traits as accurately as markers linked to color pattern genes. To assess the evolutionary histories across different loci, we compared relationships among races within H. erato and within H. melpomene using a series of unlinked genes, genes linked to color pattern loci, and optix, a gene recently shown to control red color-pattern variation. We found that although unlinked genes partition populations by geographic region, optix had a different history, structuring lineages by red color patterns and supporting a single origin of red-rayed patterns within each species. Genes closely linked (80–250 kb) to optix exhibited only weak associations with color pattern. This study empirically demonstrates the necessity of examining phenotype-determining genomic regions to understand the history of adaptive change in rapidly radiating lineages. With these refined relationships, we resolve a long-standing debate about the origins of the races within each species, supporting the hypothesis that the red-rayed Amazonian pattern evolved recently and expanded, causing disjunctions of more ancestral patterns.
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