Transposable Element Insertions Are Associated with Batesian Mimicry in the Pantropical Butterfly Hypolimnas misippus

Anna Orteu*, Marek Kucka, Ian J. Gordon, Ivy Ng’iru, Eva S. M. van der Heijden, Gerard Talavera, Ian A. Warren, Steve Collins, Richard H. ffrench-Constant, Dino J. Martins, Yingguang Frank Chan, Chris D. Jiggins, Simon H. Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Hypolimnas misippus is a Batesian mimic of the toxic African Queen butterfly (Danaus chrysippus). Female H. misippus butterflies use two major wing patterning loci (M and A) to imitate three color morphs of D. chrysippus found in different regions of Africa. In this study, we examine the evolution of the M locus and identify it as an example of adaptive atavism. This phenomenon involves a morphological reversion to an ancestral character that results in an adaptive phenotype. We show that H. misippus has re-evolved an ancestral wing pattern present in other Hypolimnas species, repurposing it for Batesian mimicry of a D. chrysippus morph. Using haplotagging, a linked-read sequencing technology, and our new analytical tool, Wrath, we discover two large transposable element insertions located at the M locus and establish that these insertions are present in the dominant allele responsible for producing mimetic phenotype. By conducting a comparative analysis involving additional Hypolimnas species, we demonstrate that the dominant allele is derived. This suggests that, in the derived allele, the transposable elements disrupt a cis-regulatory element, leading to the reversion to an ancestral phenotype that is then utilized for Batesian mimicry of a distinct model, a different morph of D. chrysippus. Our findings present a compelling instance of convergent evolution and adaptive atavism, in which the same pattern element has independently evolved multiple times in Hypolimnas butterflies, repeatedly playing a role in Batesian mimicry of diverse model species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermsae041
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date24 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • transposable elements,
  • mimicry
  • adaptive evolution
  • linked-reads
  • bioinformatic methods


Dive into the research topics of 'Transposable Element Insertions Are Associated with Batesian Mimicry in the Pantropical Butterfly Hypolimnas misippus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this