Ancient homology underlies adaptive mimetic diversity across butterflies

Nat Commun. 2014 Sep 8:5:4817. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5817.


Convergent evolution provides a rare, natural experiment with which to test the predictability of adaptation at the molecular level. Little is known about the molecular basis of convergence over macro-evolutionary timescales. Here we use a combination of positional cloning, population genomic resequencing, association mapping and developmental data to demonstrate that positionally orthologous nucleotide variants in the upstream region of the same gene, WntA, are responsible for parallel mimetic variation in two butterfly lineages that diverged >65 million years ago. Furthermore, characterization of spatial patterns of WntA expression during development suggests that alternative regulatory mechanisms underlie wing pattern variation in each system. Taken together, our results reveal a strikingly predictable molecular basis for phenotypic convergence over deep evolutionary time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Butterflies / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Genes, Insect / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome
  • Phenotype
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid*
  • Wings, Animal / growth & development
  • Wings, Animal / metabolism*
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics*


  • Wnt Proteins

Associated data

  • BioProject/PRJNA226620
  • BioProject/PRJNA252628