Butterfly Color Patterns Reveal Clues About the Genes That Build Insect Wings

Entomology Today

painted lady butterfly Researchers at the University of Manitoba studied color patterns in various species of butterflies, including painted ladies (Vanessa cardui), and the underlying genes that drive those patterns, revealing a previously undetected compartment boundary that may exist in the wings of all holometabolous insects. (Photo credit: Jeffrey Marcus, Ph.D., and Roohollah Abbasi, Ph.D.)

By Viviane Callier

Butterfly wings are natural canvases decorated with elaborate color patterns, but how these patterns develop and evolve is still incompletely understood. Now, a new study in Scientific Reports has identified the genetic code by which butterflies can assign color patterns to different parts of their wings during development. The code is based on a set of genes called transcription factors that establish compartments in most—perhaps all—insect wings. Each compartment, whose “address” is determined by the combination of genes that are active in that sector of the wing, can evolve different color patterns independently…

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