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 shape 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.


McCulloch KJ, Yuan F, Zhen Y, Aardema ML, Smith G, Llorente-Bousquets J, Andolfatto P, Briscoe AD. 2017. Sexual dimorphism and retinal mosaic diversification following the evolution of a violet receptor in butterflies. Molecular Biology and Evolution DOI:10.1093/molbev/msx163

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 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 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 DOI:10.1242/jeb.136523

McCulloch KJ, Osorio DC, Briscoe AD. 2016. Determination of photoreceptor cell spectral sensitivity in an insect model from in vivo intracellular recordings. Journal of Visualized Experiments (108):e53829 DOI:10.3791/53829

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

Photo credit: Antonia Monteiro

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

Selected recent publications: