Estimation of the spontaneous nutation rate in Heliconius melpomene

Peter D. Keightley*, Ana Pinharanda, Rob W. Ness, Fraser Simpson, Kanchon K. Dasmahapatra, James Mallet, John W. Davey, Chris D. Jiggins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


We estimated the spontaneous mutation rate in Heliconius melpomene by genome sequencing of a pair of parents and 30 of their offspring, based on the ratio of number of de novo heterozygotes to the number of callable site-individuals. We detected nine new mutations, each one affecting a single site in a single offspring. This yields an estimated mutation rate of 2.9 × 10-9 (95% confidence interval, 1.3 × 10-9-5.5 × 10-9), which is similar to recent estimates in Drosophila melanogaster, the only other insect species in which the mutation rate has been directly estimated. We infer that recent effective population size of H. melpomene is about 2 million, a substantially lower value than its census size, suggesting a role for natural selection reducing diversity. We estimate that H. melpomene diverged from its Müllerian comimic H. erato about 6 Ma, a somewhat later date than estimates based on a local molecular clock.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-243
Number of pages5
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • genome sequencing
  • heliconius
  • mutation


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