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Press Release 09-219
Butterflies in the Same Milieu, Mate With Others of Like Hue

Scientists observe the likely evolution of distinct butterfly species

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Photo of butterfly and the words Audio Slideshow

Follow butterfly-hunting scientists through Ecuador in this audio slideshow.

Credit: Lisa Raffensperger, National Science Foundation

 

Photo of a white male butterfly courting a yellow female during a mate choice experiment in Ecuador.

A white male butterfly is shown courting a yellow female butterfly during a mate choice experiment. The Ecuadorian population shows the same white and yellow variation found in Costa Rica (considered two different species there), but the Ecuadorian population has not yet reached a level of strong reproductive isolation. The entire population lives in close proximity, and individuals of both colors come in contact with and mate with each other. By studying the Ecuadorian population in captivity, the scientists found the two colors do not mate randomly. Despite the genetic similarity between the groups, white and yellow varieties differ only at the color-determining gene; yellow Ecuadorian individuals show a preference for those of the same color. White male butterflies, most of which are heterozygous at the gene that controls color, show no color preference.

Credit: Nicola Chamberlain, Harvard University


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Photo of Heliconius cydno (white) and H. pachinus (yellow) butterflies

Color pattern-based mate preference has led to the evolution of White Heliconius cydno and Yellow (H. pachinus) butterflies, considered two different species, from opposite coasts in Costa Rica.

Credit: Marcus R. Kronforst, Harvard University.


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Photo of Marcus Kronforst (left) and Ryan Hill (right) hunting for butterflies in Ecuador.

Marcus Kronforst (left) and Ryan I. Hill (right), both researchers in the Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University, hunt for butterflies at Cascada Azul in Western Ecuador. Kronforst and Hill are authors of "Polymorphic Butterfly Reveals the Missing Link in Ecological Speciation," published in the Nov. 6 issue of Science magazine.

Credit: Marcus Kronforst, Harvard University


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Photo of researcher Nicola Chamberlain smiling as she collects dos machos, two male butterflies.

Researcher Nicola L. Chamberlain of the Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, hunts for butterflies in Ecuador. She has just collected "dos machos," or two male butterflies for the preference study. Chamberlain is an author of "Polymorphic Butterfly Reveals the Missing Link in Ecological Speciation," which appears in the Nov. 6, 2009, issue of Science magazine.

Credit: Ryan I. Hill, Harvard University


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Photo of a collection of butterflies from Costa Rica showing the tremendous Heliconius diversity.

This collection of butterflies is an example of the tremendous Heliconius diversity, showing all species and color patterns of butterflies from Costa Rica.

Credit: Marcus Kronforst, Harvard University


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Cover of the November 6 issue of Science magazine.

The researchers' findings appear in the November 6 issue of Science magazine.

Credit: Copyright 2009 AAAS


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