Visual mate preference evolution during butterfly speciation is linked to neural processing genes

Matteo Rossi, Alexander E. Hausmann, Timothy J. Thurman, Stephen H. Montgomery, Riccardo Papa, Chris D. Jiggins, W. Owen McMillan, Richard M. Merrill

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Received Date: 2nd April 20

Many animal species remain separate not because they fail to produce viable hybrids, but because they “choose” not to mate.  However, we still know very little of the genetic mechanisms underlying changes in these mate preference behaviours. Heliconius butterflies display bright warning patterns, which they also use to recognize conspecifics. Here, we couple QTL for divergence in visual preference behaviours with population genomic and gene expression analyses of neural tissue (central brain, optic lobes and ommatidia) across development in two sympatric Heliconius species. Within a region containing 200 genes, we identify five genes that are strongly associated with divergent visual preferences. Three of these have previously been implicated in key components of neural signalling (specifically an ionotropic glutamate receptor and two regucalcins), and overall our candidates suggest shifts in behaviour involve changes in visual integration or processing. This would allow preference evolution without altering perception of the wider environment.

Read in full at bioRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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Nature Research, Springer Nature