Evolution, coloration and vision

What happens to gene products underlying physiological and behavioral traits following gene duplication and functional diversification? We use butterflies to examine how natural selection shapes the coding sequences and gene expression patterns of photoreceptor proteins in the eye and how this may lead to evolutionary changes in color vision and wing color. How does color vision impact ecological interactions between butterflies and their predators, potential mates, host plants and the environment in the context of mimicry and species recognition? We examine this using modeling and field experiments.


Finkbeiner SD, Fishman DA, Osorio D, Briscoe AD. 2017. Ultraviolet and yellow reflectance but not fluorescence is important for visual discrimination of conspecifics by Heliconius erato. Journal of Experimental Biology, 220:1267-127676. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.153593

Smith G, Macias-Munoz A, Briscoe AD. 2016. Gene duplication and gene expression changes play a role in the evolution of pollen feeding genes in Heliconius butterflies. Genome Biology and Evolution 8:2581-2596. DOI:10.1093/gbe/evw180

McCulloch KJ, Osorio D, Briscoe AD. 2016. Sexual dimorphism in the compound eye of Heliconius erato: A nymphalid butterfly with at least five spectral classes of photoreceptor. Journal of Experimental Biology 219:2377-2387. DOI:10.1242/jeb.136523

Finkbeiner SD, Briscoe AD, Reed RD. 2014. Warning signals are seductive: Relative contributions of color and pattern to predator avoidance and mate attraction in Heliconius butterflies. Evolution, doi: 10.1111/evo.12524

Briscoe AD, Macias-Munoz A, Kozak KM, Walters JR, Yuan F, et al. 2013. Female behaviour drives expression and evolution of gustatory receptors in butterflies. PLoS Genetics 9: e1003620. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003620

Photo credit: Antónia Monteiro

Photo credit: Adriana Briscoe

Our work is at the intersection of molecular evolution, evolutionary physiology, and animal behavior and is supported by the National Science Foundation.