Comparative genomics of the mimicry switch in Papilio dardanus

Martijn J T N Timmermans, Simon W Baxter, Rebecca Clark, David G Heckel, Heiko Vogel, Steve Collins, Alexie Papanicolaou, Iva Fukova, Mathieu Joron, Martin J Thompson, Chris D Jiggins, Richard H ffrench-Constant, Alfried P Vogler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The African Mocker Swallowtail, Papilio dardanus, is a textbook example in evolutionary genetics. Classical breeding experiments have shown that wing pattern variation in this polymorphic Batesian mimic is determined by the polyallelic H locus that controls a set of distinct mimetic phenotypes. Using bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) sequencing, recombination analyses and comparative genomics, we show that H co-segregates with an interval of less than 500 kb that is collinear with two other Lepidoptera genomes and contains 24 genes, including the transcription factor genes engrailed (en) and invected (inv). H is located in a region of conserved gene order, which argues against any role for genomic translocations in the evolution of a hypothesized multi-gene mimicry locus. Natural populations of P. dardanus show significant associations of specific morphs with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), centred on en. In addition, SNP variation in the H region reveals evidence of non-neutral molecular evolution in the en gene alone. We find evidence for a duplication potentially driving physical constraints on recombination in the lamborni morph. Absence of perfect linkage disequilibrium between different genes in the other morphs suggests that H is limited to nucleotide positions in the regulatory and coding regions of en. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that a single gene underlies wing pattern variation in P. dardanus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20140465
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1787
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2014


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