Contrasting genomic and phenotypic outcomes of hybridization between pairs of mimetic butterfly taxa across a suture zone

Mol Ecol. 2020 Apr;29(7):1328-1343. doi: 10.1111/mec.15403. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


Hybrid zones, whereby divergent lineages come into contact and eventually hybridize, can provide insights on the mechanisms involved in population differentiation and reproductive isolation, and ultimately speciation. Suture zones offer the opportunity to compare these processes across multiple species. In this paper we use reduced-complexity genomic data to compare the genetic and phenotypic structure and hybridization patterns of two mimetic butterfly species, Ithomia salapia and Oleria onega (Nymphalidae: Ithomiini), each consisting of a pair of lineages differentiated for their wing colour pattern and that come into contact in the Andean foothills of Peru. Despite similarities in their life history, we highlight major differences, both at the genomic and phenotypic level, between the two species. These differences include the presence of hybrids, variations in wing phenotype, and genomic patterns of introgression and differentiation. In I. salapia, the two lineages appear to hybridize only rarely, whereas in O. onega the hybrids are not only more common, but also genetically and phenotypically more variable. We also detected loci statistically associated with wing colour pattern variation, but in both species these loci were not over-represented among the candidate barrier loci, suggesting that traits other than wing colour pattern may be important for reproductive isolation. Our results contrast with the genomic patterns observed between hybridizing lineages in the mimetic Heliconius butterflies, and call for a broader investigation into the genomics of speciation in Ithomiini - the largest radiation of mimetic butterflies.

Keywords: Ithomiini; admixture mapping; differentiation; hybridization; introgression; mimicry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butterflies / classification
  • Butterflies / genetics*
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genome, Insect
  • Genotype
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Peru
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Reproductive Isolation
  • Wings, Animal / anatomy & histology