I am interested in the evolution of wing pattern mimicry in Swallowtail butterflies of the genus Papilio.
Batesian mimicry is a phenomenon in which harmless species mimic the warning signals of toxic species for predator avoidance. These systems favor the generation of phenotypic diversity because an excess in the abundance of mimics relative to models interferes with predators learning true warning signals. Consequently, populations exhibiting Batesian mimicry benefit from evolving polymorphisms of multiple mimics and models. These mimic species thus present an opportunity for studying the origins and maintenance of dramatic phenotypic diversity among close relatives. Papilio polytes is a species of swallowtail butterfly exemplifying this phenomenon in its wing patterns. However, while male P. polytes are not mimetic, females have evolved polymorphic wing pattern phenotypes mimicking multiple species in addition to the male-like non mimetic form. My research focuses on investigating the genetic mechanisms underlying wing pattern polymorphism in P. polytes and how these mechanisms evolve across Papilio. Many lineages within Papilio have independently evolved polymorphic mimicry and I am investigating whether the same genomic regions and/or mechanisms are involved in producing these mimicry systems.
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