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 Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>