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Title: A genetic switch for male UV iridescence in an incipient species pair of sulphur butterflies
Mating cues evolve rapidly and can contribute to species formation and maintenance. However, little is known about how sexual signals diverge and how this variation integrates with other barrier loci to shape the genomic landscape of reproductive isolation. Here, we elucidate the genetic basis of ultraviolet (UV) iridescence, a courtship signal that differentiates the males of Colias eurytheme butterflies from a sister species, allowing females to avoid costly heterospecific matings. Anthropogenic range expansion of the two incipient species established a large zone of secondary contact across the eastern United States with strong signatures of genomic admixtures spanning all autosomes. In contrast, Z chromosomes are highly differentiated between the two species, supporting a disproportionate role of sex chromosomes in speciation known as the large-X (or large-Z) effect. Within this chromosome-wide reproductive barrier, linkage mapping indicates that cis- regulatory variation of bric a brac ( bab ) underlies the male UV-iridescence polymorphism between the two species. Bab is expressed in all non-UV scales, and butterflies of either species or sex acquire widespread ectopic iridescence following its CRISPR knockout, demonstrating that Bab functions as a suppressor of UV-scale differentiation that potentiates mating cue divergence. These results highlight how a genetic switch can regulate more » a premating signal and integrate with other reproductive barriers during intermediate phases of speciation. « less
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Award ID(s):
1755329 1656553
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    Significance statement

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