Friday, November 10, 2017

How a 'flipped' gene helped butterflies evolve mimicry

In a study published on Nature Communications, scientist from the University of Chicago analyzed different species of swallowtail butterflies from different geographic locations. They analyzed the butterflies and found that butterflies from different regions had different mimicking patterns. The scientists believed that the mimicry occurred about two million years ago when a double sex gene flipped at some point. They saw variation in butterflies and believe some of the original undisguised forms of butterflies might have been lost by prey because of their inability to flip the gene like the other butterflies. They also saw that some butterfly populations have maintained multiple female forms for millions of years, while other butterflies without the mimic patterns diminished.

I found this article interesting because this study explored on how and when the swallowtail butterfly developed mimic patterns. This is a interesting discovery because scientists previously believed that the butterfly mimic was controlled by "supergenes", which were groups of several tightly linked genes that were always inherited as groups, which is not the case. This could help us understand how the flipping of  a double sex gene works and the advantages and disadvantages of it.

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