Stanford University2014-11-18 3:48 PM

The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration

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 .


Full Article:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v514/n7522/full/nature13812.html

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