Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Masters of disguise: Secrets of nature's 'great pretenders' revealed

21.02.2008
A gene which helps a harmless African butterfly ward off predators by giving it wing patterns like those of toxic species, has been identified by scientists who publish their findings today (20 February 2008).

The mocker swallowtail butterfly, Papilio dardanus, is unusual because it emerges from its chrysalis with one of a large number of different possible wing patterns and colours. This is different from most butterfly species which are identified by a common wing pattern and colour. Furthermore, some of the different patterns that the mocker swallowtail exhibits mimic those of poisonous species, which affords this harmless insect a valuable disguise which scares off predators.

Biologists are interested in finding out exactly how wing pattern is determined in the mocker swallowtail, because they believe that understanding how these different mimic patterns evolved may shed new light on whether such evolutionary changes occur in small gradual steps, or sudden leaps.

In the 1950s scientists realised there must be a genetic 'switch' controlling which of the numerous possible wing patterns is expressed in each individual mocker swallowtail, but until now the location and identity of the genes involved have remained a mystery.

... more about:
»WING »disguise »mimic »mocker »species »swallowtail

The new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows how a team of biologists used molecular tags and DNA sequencing in order to pinpoint the part of its genetic code that determines wing pattern and colour. Their study suggests that a developmental gene called 'invected', which was already known to be involved in the early embryonic development of butterflies, is behind the allocation of different wing patterns in mocker swallowtails.

Professor Alfried Vogler of Imperial College London's Department of Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum, one of the authors on the paper, explains, however, that further investigation is needed to figure out exactly how this gene works.

"We've taken a big step here towards identifying exactly how this fascinating insect species is endowed with such a wide variety of extremely useful wing patterns. However, identifying the area of the genome involved in this process is just the first step - we now need to look in more detail at the differences in the invected gene, and another gene located next to it, to find out exactly how they produce the different forms," he said.

He goes on to emphasise the significance of studying the mocker swallowtail, saying: "You could argue that there would be little point in a species which slowly evolved to mimic a poisonous butterfly over the course of generations - the disguise is only useful if full and complete. This could suggest the possibility of sudden leaps in evolution occurring in this species, which would be an incredibly exciting discovery - by studying the changes in gene sequences we will find out if this happened or not."

The mocker swallowtail is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has a wingspan of between three-and-a-half, and four-and-a-quarter inches. Only females of the species exhibit the wing patterns that mimic other butterflies. All the males are yellow, with black markings and have the typical tails of most swallowtail butterflies.

Danielle Reeves | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

Further reports about: WING disguise mimic mocker species swallowtail

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>