Researcher discovers hybrid speciation in the Sierra Nevada

In a recently published article in the leading research journal Science, the discovery is one of the most convincing cases of this type of species formation that has ever been demonstrated in animals.

“Our genetic work is what really clinched the hybrid angle,” said Forister, a research professor in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources’ Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science. Forister explained that it has been known that two types of butterflies — Lycaeides melissa and Lycaeides idas — live in the Sierra, with the L. melissa living on the eastern slope of the Sierra and the L. idas living to the west. Forister’s team found that a third species of Lycaeides has evolved in the upper alpine reaches of the Sierra.

The team used molecular genetics to show that the “new” species carries genes from both parental species. The scientists estimate that about 440,000 years ago the L. melissa and L. idas came into contact in the Sierra. Their offspring, cut off from the rest of their clan, eventually evolved into a unique and genetically distinct species.

“It’s interesting, because the alpine butterflies have wings that look like the butterflies from the eastern Sierra,” Forister said. “But their mitochondrial DNA more clearly resembles those from the western Sierra. When you think about all of the changes the world has undergone, and how parental species have moved in response to climate change and have possibly come into contact many times, you realize that the world is a messier place than you first thought.

“Ultimately, what we’ve studied highlights the importance of natural selection, and the more general idea that we are still learning many of the ways in which species are formed.”

Forister’s collaborators included UC-Davis professor Arthur Shapiro, Zachariah Gompert and Chris Nice of Texas State University and James Fordyce at the University of Tennessee. Shapiro is one of the world’s foremost butterfly experts. Forister did his graduate work at UC-Davis under Shapiro. His graduate work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The team’s findings provide an important piece to the puzzle in the understanding of how animal species emerge. It is widely believed that plant species can be commonly created through such species crossing; hybrid species formation among animals, however, has been much less thoroughly studied.

Forister and his colleagues worked on some of the more barren reaches of the upper alpine in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe, plucking samples of blue (male) and brown (female) butterflies from the rocks and sparse alpine vegetation there. The samples were studied by the research members who worked to analyze the species’ DNA in a laboratory in Texas.

“We worked within a very narrow window because these butterflies are at their peak flight for only a few weeks in the middle of the summer,” Forister said.

The field work proved to be just as important as the laboratory work, as the team made important findings regarding the new species’ adaptive habits. Though the climate is extreme at high elevations and the flying season lasts only a matter of a few weeks, the researchers noted that the still-unnamed species seeks out a certain plant at the higher elevations. They use this host plant to lay their eggs. Their “parent’ butterflies of the eastern and western Sierra do not show the same affinity for this particular host plant, the balloonpod milkvetch. This was another critical illustration that a habitat and species shift had occurred.

By understanding how the “new” species lives, the research team is also adding to the scientific-based knowledge that could some day help preserve the butterfly’s habitat, Forister added. “Now that we’ve finished this part of the study, we’d like to turn our attention to some of the other ranges of the West, and investigate similar areas of overlap,” Forister said.

Media Contact

John Trent EurekAlert!

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.unr.edu

Alle Nachrichten aus der Kategorie: Life Sciences

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Zurück zur Startseite

Kommentare (0)

Schreib Kommentar

Neueste Beiträge

Detecting early-stage failure in electric power conversion devices

Researchers from Osaka University use non-destructive acoustic monitoring to identify the earliest stages of failure in silicon carbide power electronics, which will help in the design of more-durable power devices….

Build your own AI with ISAAC for error detection in production

Fraunhofer IDMT has developed a software tool for quality inspectors based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), which automates and simplifies the analysis of industrial sounds, for example in welding processes. Thanks…

BEAT-COVID – advanced therapy strategies against the pandemic

The present SARS-coronavirus-2 pandemic with all its effects on society – both health and economic – highlights the urgency of developing new therapies for COVID-19 treatment. At the same time,…

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close