Some butterflies fool predators by mimicking the wing color patterns of their unpalatable cousins. Now scientists have identified the gene that lets one kind of swallowtail butterfly perform that trick.
The researchers say it was a surprise that just one gene can produce the elaborate wing patterns. It acts as a switch in females, regulating other genes to produce patterns that mimic those of any of three species of toxic butterflies.
The researchers are from the University of Chicago and elsewhere. Their findings were published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.
APPHOTO NY470: This combination of photos provided by researchers shows a toxic Common Rose butterfly (Pachliopta aristolochiae), top, whose wing markings are mimicked by a Common Mormon butterfly (Papilio polytes), middle. At bottom is a non-mimetic female Common Mormon butterfly. To fool predators, some butterflies create wing color patterns that make them resemble their unpalatable cousins. Only recently have scientists been unraveling how they do that, and now researchers have identified the gene that does the trick for this Asian swallowtail, reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Krushnamegh Kunte, Khew Sin Khoo, Rohit Girotra) (1 May 2008)
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