Insect eye pigment genes behind butterfly wings pattern

November 14th, 2007 - 2:51 am ICT by admin  
Bob Reed, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, found that genes that make insect eye pigments developed over time to result in wing pigments in butterflies.

“We found that evolution is achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions, as opposed to evolving entirely new genes from scratch,” Reed said.

Within one species of the butterfly genus Heliconius, more than 20 distinct wing patterns can exist in different geographic regions. Over time, the Heliconius evolves to look like local unrelated butterfly species that are poisonous to birds, a phenomenon called mimicry.

“It is a very basic textbook example of natural selection. If you look like you’re poisonous, you’re not going to get eaten and you can produce offspring,” Reed said.

Results of the study appeared online this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

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