A research team led by Dr. LI Xueyan from Kunming Institute of Zoology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported high-quality reference genomes of 11 swallowtail butterfly species and illustrated their coloration evolution. The finding was published in Zoological Research .
The researchers reported high quality genomes of 11 swallowtail butterfly species covering the representatives of all tribes in the subfamilies Papilioinae and Parnassiinae. They explained the genetic molecular mechanism of papiliochromes, a unique class of pigments in swallowtail butterfly which contribute to their color diversity and various biological functions such as predator avoidance and mate preference.
Swallowtail butterflies (Papilionidae) are a historically significant butterfly group for their colorful wing patterns, extensive morphological diversity and phylogenetically important position as a sister group to all other butterflies. In the list of key protected wild animals in China, 20 of 24 butterfly species belong to swallowtail butterflies (Papilionidae).
“These swallowtail butterfly genomes will allow us to explore the genetic basis of butterfly diversity, and also will provide important data resource for conservation of butterflies”, said Dr. LI Xueyan. “These swallowtail butterfly genomes are process outcomes of our butterfly genome project, which is one of Affiliated Projects in Earth BioGenome Project (EBP).”
Butterflies are charming for both scientists and the publics because of their diverse color patterns. They have been considered as an ideal model to investigate such fundamental biological topics as genetics, development and evolution of morphological diversity in recent decades. They are also recognized as indicator taxa to monitor biodiversity because of their sensitivity to environmental changes. They include more than 18000 species in the world with most of them in tropic and subtropic areas.
This study, entitled “High-quality reference genomes of swallowtail butterflies provide insights into their coloration evolution”, was published in Zoological Research(Web link: https://www.zoores.ac.cn/article/doi/10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2021.303). Prof. CHEN Lei, Prof. WANG Wen and Dr. LI Xueyan are the co-corresponding authors. This project was financially supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (31621062, 32070482), Chinese Academy of Sciences (“Light of West China”, XDB13000000), Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department (202105AC160039), and Biodiversity Conservation Program of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China (China BON-Butterflies).
Phylogeny of swallowtail butterflies
(Image by He et al., doi:10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2021.303)