Estimation of the spontaneous mutation rate in Heliconius melpomene

Mol Biol Evol. 2015 Jan;32(1):239-43. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu302. Epub 2014 Nov 3.


We estimated the spontaneous mutation rate in Heliconius melpomene by genome sequencing of a pair of parents and 30 of their offspring, based on the ratio of number of de novo heterozygotes to the number of callable site-individuals. We detected nine new mutations, each one affecting a single site in a single offspring. This yields an estimated mutation rate of 2.9 × 10(-9) (95% confidence interval, 1.3 × 10(-9)-5.5 × 10(-9)), which is similar to recent estimates in Drosophila melanogaster, the only other insect species in which the mutation rate has been directly estimated. We infer that recent effective population size of H. melpomene is about 2 million, a substantially lower value than its census size, suggesting a role for natural selection reducing diversity. We estimate that H. melpomene diverged from its Müllerian comimic H. erato about 6 Ma, a somewhat later date than estimates based on a local molecular clock.

Keywords: Heliconius; genome sequencing; mutation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butterflies / classification
  • Butterflies / genetics
  • Butterflies / growth & development*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Genome, Insect*
  • Male
  • Mutation Rate*
  • Phylogeny
  • Population Density
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*