Population genomics of parallel hybrid zones in the mimetic butterflies, H. melpomene and H. erato

Nicola J Nadeau, Mayté Ruiz, Patricio Salazar, Brian Counterman, Jose Alejandro Medina, Humberto Ortiz-Zuazaga, Anna Morrison, W Owen McMillan, Chris D Jiggins, Riccardo Papa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hybrid zones can be valuable tools for studying evolution and identifying genomic regions responsible for adaptive divergence and underlying phenotypic variation. Hybrid zones between subspecies of Heliconius butterflies can be very narrow and are maintained by strong selection acting on color pattern. The comimetic species, H. erato and H. melpomene, have parallel hybrid zones in which both species undergo a change from one color pattern form to another. We use restriction-associated DNA sequencing to obtain several thousand genome-wide sequence markers and use these to analyze patterns of population divergence across two pairs of parallel hybrid zones in Peru and Ecuador. We compare two approaches for analysis of this type of data-alignment to a reference genome and de novo assembly-and find that alignment gives the best results for species both closely (H. melpomene) and distantly (H. erato, ∼15% divergent) related to the reference sequence. Our results confirm that the color pattern controlling loci account for the majority of divergent regions across the genome, but we also detect other divergent regions apparently unlinked to color pattern differences. We also use association mapping to identify previously unmapped color pattern loci, in particular the Ro locus. Finally, we identify a new cryptic population of H. timareta in Ecuador, which occurs at relatively low altitude and is mimetic with H. melpomene malleti.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1316-33
Number of pages18
JournalGenome Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Animals
  • Butterflies
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Insect
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • Pigmentation
  • Wing


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