Professor Chris Jiggins, University of Cambridge – 9 March 2021

Convergent evolution in butterflies, from chemicals to colour patterns


What are the origins of biodiversity? There is much we still don’t understand about the evolution of new biological species.  Our research focuses on new world tropical butterflies as a model to understand evolution at the population and species level.

In particular, we are interested in the predictability of evolution – to what extent do different populations follow the same evolutionary trajectories.  Convergent evolution, such as mimicry, offers the opportunity to ask whether the same genes, or the same kinds of genetic changes are involved repeatedly when different populations undergo similar evolutionary changes.  By studying the genetic basis of adaptive traits we can answer questions regarding the origins of genetic variation needed for evolution (from novel mutation, hybridization, or standing variation), the kinds of mutations involved in evolutionary change (cis-regulatory versus structural protein changes) and the genetic architecture of genes involved in adaptation and speciation (many genes or few?).  The huge diversity of divergent populations and species in Heliconius offers a wealth of natural variation with which to address these questions.

Nature of Life seminars

Date       :   9 March 2021

Time       :   15.45 hours

Location:   Online