Wing patterning genes and coevolution of Müllerian mimicry inHeliconiusbutterflies: Support from phylogeography, cophylogeny, and divergence times

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Hoyal Cuthill, Jennifer F. ; Charleston, Michael

Examples of long-term coevolution are rare among free-living organisms. Müllerian mimicry in Heliconius butterflies had been suggested as a key example of coevolution by early genetic studies. However, research over the last two decades has been dominated by the idea that the best-studied comimics, H. erato and H. melpomene, did not coevolve at all. Recently sequenced genes associated with wing color pattern phenotype offer a new opportunity to resolve this controversy. Here, we test the hypothesis of coevolution between H. erato and H. melpomene using Bayesian multilocus analysis of five color pattern genes and five neutral genetic markers. We first explore the extent of phylogenetic agreement versus conflict between the different genes. Coevolution is then tested against three aspects of the mimicry diversifications: phylogenetic branching patterns, divergence times, and, for the first time, phylogeographic histories. We show that all three lines of evidence are compatible with strict coevolution of the diverse mimicry wing patterns, contrary to some recent suggestions. Instead, these findings tally with a coevolutionary diversification driven primarily by the ecological force of Müllerian mimicry.
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