Leaf Masquerade Mimicry in Oakleaf Butterflies
by Wei Zhang | Peking University
Abstract ID: 153
Event: The 3rd AsiaEvo Conference
Topic: Plenary talk
Presenter Name: Wei Zhang

Oakleaf butterflies in the genus Kallima have a polymorphic wing phenotype enabling these insects to masquerade as dead leaves. This iconic example of protective resemblance provides an interesting evolutionary paradigm that can be employed to study biodiversity. We integrated multi-omic data analyses and functional validation to infer the evolutionary history of Kallima species and investigate the genetic basis of their variable leaf wing patterns. We find that Kallima butterflies diversified in the eastern Himalayas and dispersed to East and Southeast Asia. Moreover, we find that leaf wing polymorphism is controlled by the wing patterning gene cortex, which has been maintained in Kallima by long-term balancing selection. Our results provide macroevolutionary and microevolutionary insights into a model species originating from a mountain ecosystem.