Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Biology

First Adviser

Iovine, Mary K.

Other advisers/committee members

Schneider, Jill E.; Rice, Amber M.


Color pattern variation in butterflies has been a focus of research investigating the genetic basis of adaptive traits. Over the past decade, genetic and genomic studies on butterfly wings have supported the possibility of a conserved genetic architecture of wing patterns. Extensive mapping in Heliconius and other Lepidopterans offers an excellent opportunity to investigate the comparative genetic basis of wing patterning elements across macroevolutionary timescales. Here I present data which supports the hypothesis that the Limenitis arthemis species complex and several species of Heliconius butterflies use homologous genomic regions to switch between wing pattern phenotypes and I identify WntA as the candidate gene controlling this variation. In addition, I present data, which taken together with previous work, supports several alternative origins to wing patterning, including the hypothesis that mimetic wing patterns in the L. arthemis species complex may have a single origin followed by hybridization upon secondary contact between divergent lineages. These findings taken together with other recent findings in the field, suggest that wing patterns difference among butterfly lineages, though incredibly diverse, may be controlled by just a few regions of large effect.