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Mimicry Genetics

Neotropical butterflies in the genus Heliconius are unpalatable, aposematic, and they have undergone a recent adaptive radiation in wing color patterns as a consequence of natural selection for Müllerian mimicry. We are working to identify the molecular basis of the genes that control wing pattern diversity in Heliconius and characterize the evolutionary history of divergence […]

Supergenes

We have extended our research on Heliconius to explore the genetic basis of mimicry in a diversity of butterfly species, including one particularly long-lived mystery of evolutionary genetics—the molecular basis of ‘supergene’ mimicry. Using an integrative approach combining genetic and association mapping, transcriptome and genome sequencing, and gene expression analyses, we found that a single […]

Mating Behavior

Color pattern mimicry and mating behavior are deeply intertwined in Heliconius butterflies. Previously we showed that Heliconius mate assortatively based on color pattern and that male mate preference is genetically linked to a major Mendelian locus that shifts wing color between white and yellow. Recently we used genome-wide association mapping, gene expression analyses, and genome […]

Migration

The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is famous for its spectacular annual migration across North America, recent worldwide dispersal, and orange warning coloration. Despite decades of study and broad public interest, we know little about the genetic basis of these hallmark traits. Recently, by sequencing and analyzing 101 Danaus genomes from around the globe, we uncovered […]

Herbivory

Some of our newest work focuses on the interactions between butterflies and their larval host plants. We have mapped the genetic basis of herbivory in butterflies and plants and compared patterns of gene expression in larvae and their hosts, across the time course of their interaction and across species. We are now in the process […]

CRISPR/Cas9

In the last decade, CRISPR/Cas9 has emerged as an essential tool for genome editing and we have worked hard to apply these methods to butterflies. We use CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to functionally validate candidate genes and study gene function by generating knock-outs. We are also working to expand the CRISPR methodology toolkit in butterflies and […]

Evo-Devo

Evolutionary developmental biology, or evo-devo, is a field of study that focuses on comparative analyses of developmental processes in order to infer how development has evolved. We use the methods of developmental biology–including in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, spatial transcriptomics, and imaging–to compare development across species and populations. Much of this work is focused on understanding […]