Mating Behavior

Interspecific mating between Heliconius pachinus and Heliconius cydno.

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 editing with CRISPR/Cas9 to show that the gene aristaless1 controls the critical white/yellow mimicry locus that butterflies use as a cue during mating. Our work also showed that the derived white allele originated in one species and was subsequently passed to another by hybridization. We continue to pursue the question of how mate preference is generated and what causes preference variation to be linked to the color switch locus. Related to this work, we have invested substantial effort into developing genome editing approaches in Heliconius and other butterflies, studying the impact of female mate preference in Heliconius, and we have also participated in a number of large comparative surveys aimed at tracking the amount and evolutionary consequence of introgression among Heliconius species.

Selected Publications

Westerman, E., N. Antonson, S. Kreutzmann, A. Peterson, S. Pineda, M. R Kronforst and C. F. Olson-Manning. 2019. Behaviour before beauty: signal weighting during mate selection in the butterfly Papilio polytes. Ethology 125: 565-574.

Westerman, E. L., R. Letchinger, A. Tenger-Trolander, D. Massardo, D. Palmer and M. R. Kronforst. 2018. Does male preference play a role in maintaining female limited polymorphism in a Batesian mimetic butterfly? Behavioural Processes 150: 47-58.

Southcott, L. and M. R. Kronforst. 2018. Female mate choice is a reproductive isolating barrier in Heliconius butterflies. Ethology 124:862–869. Dryad Data  bioRxiv Preprint

Chamberlain, N. L., R. I. Hill, D. D. Kapan, L. E. Gilbert and M. R. Kronforst. 2009. Polymorphic butterfly reveals the missing link in ecological speciation.  Science 326: 847-850.  National Science Foundation  Harvard Gazette  UT Austin

Kronforst, M. R., L. G. Young and L. E. Gilbert. 2007. Reinforcement of mate preference among hybridizing Heliconius butterflies.  Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20: 278-285.

Kronforst, M. R., L. G. Young, D. D. Kapan, C. McNeely, R. J. O’Neill and L. E. Gilbert. 2006. Linkage of butterfly mate preference and wing color preference cue at the genomic location of winglessProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103: 6575-6580.  Faculty1000 Opinions