Ananda Regina Pereira Martins
ProjectBates Revisited: The origin of wing pattern variation in the Amazon
The great naturalist, Henry Walter Bates, explored the Amazon basin over 150 years ago. He was amazed by the incredible diversity of this tropical forest, and in particular documented remarkable cases of mimicry in the vivid wing patterns of distantly related Heliconius butterflies. Some interesting characteristics about these butterflies stand out: 1) closely related Heliconius have a huge diversity of colors while distantly related ones can look very similar; 2) these butterflies are toxic and their colorful wings warn predators that they are unpalatable; 3) specific wing color patterns are found in different regions of the Amazon forest. However, Bates did not have access to genomic tools nor knowledge about the geologic and climatic history of the Amazon. Here, I propose to follow in Bates steps, and use whole genome data to test hypotheses about the evolution and spread of new wing color patterns. Filling this knowledge gap will help provide a piece of the puzzle about the processes that gave rise to the greatest terrestrial biodiversity spot of the Earth. I focus on the distantly related Heliconius erato and H. melpomene. These species provide a unique set of resources, including a detailed knowledge of the genetic basis controlling the diversity of color patterns and high quality reference genomes. Thus, I have a unique opportunity to combine genomic data, phenotype, and historical environmental factors that could have influenced the evolution of color wing patterns.