November 27, 2019
Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit a flowering meadow, rainforest or butterfly house will know that there are a great number of different butterflies. In fact, in North America there are 845 different species of butterflies, and now we have genetic information about each of these species.
A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre have been gathering genetic information for years and have now compiled what they call a “complete butterfly continent”. Using freshly collected specimens, as well as old museum specimens, they have been able to sequence genome of each of the 845 North American species.
This data was comprised by aggregating short stretches of DNA, and so, is considered to be low quality draft DNA. Despite this the genomes have allowed the researchers to build an evolutionary tree of the butterflies. From this they have been able to determine that there are group of butterflies that diversify faster than others, which indicates the butterflies are swapping genes with other butterfly species via interbreeding rather than just evolving slowly over time. This interbreeding and spreading of genes may help explain the amazing diversity of butterfly species, and further research may help shed light on whether this has happened in other organisms as well.
Read more: http://ow.ly/X73L50xixMF