Repeated genetic adaptation to altitude in two tropical butterflies

Gabriela Montejo-Kovacevich*, Joana I. Meier, Caroline N. Bacquet, Ian A. Warren, Yingguang Frank Chan, Marek Kucka, Camilo Salazar, Nicol Rueda-M, Stephen H. Montgomery, W. Owen McMillan, Krzysztof M. Kozak, Nicola J. Nadeau, Simon H. Martin, Chris D. Jiggins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Repeated evolution can provide insight into the mechanisms that facilitate adaptation to novel or changing environments. Here we study adaptation to altitude in two tropical butterflies, Heliconius erato and H. melpomene, which have repeatedly and independently adapted to montane habitats on either side of the Andes. We sequenced 518 whole genomes from altitudinal transects and found many regions differentiated between highland (~ 1200 m) and lowland (~ 200 m) populations. We show repeated genetic differentiation across replicate populations within species, including allopatric comparisons. In contrast, there is little molecular parallelism between the two species. By sampling five close relatives, we find that a large proportion of divergent regions identified within species have arisen from standing variation and putative adaptive introgression from high-altitude specialist species. Taken together our study supports a role for both standing genetic variation and gene flow from independently adapted species in promoting parallel local adaptation to the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4676
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • adaptation
  • altitude
  • animals
  • butterflies
  • phenotype
  • phylogeny
  • genetics


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