Ecological genetics: a key gene for mimicry and melanism


Mallet J, Hoekstra HE. Ecological genetics: a key gene for mimicry and melanism. Current Biology . 2016;26 (17) :R802-R804.


The major revolution in Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ was the proposal that evolutionary change took place by natural selection. The ‘Origin’ was highly influential primarily because of its convincing, logical arguments, but in 1859 Darwin was unable to provide a single empirical case of natural selection. By the late 19th century, two key examples of natural selection became known: mimicry in heliconian butterflies and rapid increases in melanic forms of the peppered moth (Biston betularia) as well as of many other moth species in industrial Britain [12]. Only now, however, are we beginning to catch a glimpse of the genetics underlying these adaptive changes. Remarkably, two independent and different-looking colour pattern switches in Lepidoptera — one in wing colour patterning and one that melanizes all scales over the wings and body — have been mapped to exactly the same gene in Heliconius and Biston [34].

Last updated on 09/20/2016