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Researchers: How butterflies develop the same wing color via different paths “forever changes the way evolution is understood.”

Heliconius mimicry.png
Heliconius spp./Public Library of Science, Creative Commons

From ScienceDaily:

“Our team is the first to report that although evolution of similar color patterns in Heliconius may be driven by similar forces — like predators avoiding a particular kind of butterfly — the pathway to that outcome is not predictable,” said Carolina Concha, lead author of the paper and a post-doctoral fellow at STRI. “This really surprised us because it reveals the importance of history and chance in shaping the genetic pathways leading to butterfly wing-pattern mimicry.”

Heliconius’ bright wing colors signal to bird predators that the butterflies are toxic. Flashy male wing patterns signal to females that they are choosing the right species to mate with. Somehow these two forces, predation and mating, lead to similar wing patterns in groups of butterflies isolated in the mountain valleys and foothills of the Andes. By knocking out a single gene called WntA in 12 different species and their variants, the molecular biologists on the team could tell whether the butterflies in a pair with the same wing patterns were using the same genetic pathways to color and pattern their wings. They were not.

“Imagine two teams given the same Lego blocks are asked to build the same device,” said Arnaud Martin, co-author and head of the Butterfly Evo-Devo Lab at George Washington University. “Each team goes about the task in a different way, but in the end, the result is the same. Butterflies face much more serious challenges: they build structures made of wing scales that are essential to their survival and ability to reproduce.”

Questions regarding butterfly mimicry have intrigued biologists for decades, but the technology to selectively remove a single gene in a live organism did not exist until about five years ago. Now, with CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editing, Paper. (open access) – Carolina Concha, Richard W.R. Wallbank, Joseph J. Hanly, Jennifer Fenner, Luca Livraghi, Edgardo Santiago Rivera, Daniel F. Paulo, Carlos Arias, Marta Vargas, Manu Sanjeev, Colin Morrison, David Tian, Paola Aguirre, Sabrina Ferrara, Jessica Foley, Carolina Pardo-Diaz, Camilo Salazar, Mauricio Linares, Darli Massardo, Brian A. Counterman, Maxwell J. Scott, Chris D. Jiggins, Riccardo Papa, Arnaud Martin, W. Owen McMillan. Interplay between Developmental Flexibility and Determinism in the Evolution of Mimetic Heliconius Wing Patterns. Current Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.10.010 More.

It sounds goal-directed rather than randomly evolved. Note this:

Riccardo Papa, co-author and professor at the University of Puerto Rico. “Distinct species with identical wing-color patterns, such as co-mimetic butterflies, can evolve using different molecular strategies. Imagine the same notes played on different instruments!”

We can imagine it. It is called intelligent design. The melody is an idea and it can be iterated on different instruments.

By the way, didn’t this story run through here the other day, only back then it was birds?

See also: Identical birds, different genes So different sets of genes can result in identical looking birds? This is getting as complicated as the butterflies.

Here's another 2017 article on the challenging issues confronted by evo-devo. What evolutionary developmental biology (evo devo) brings to evolutionary biology (2017)
it is important to emphasize that there are foundational questions in evolutionary biology, questions that have motivated evolutionary biology from its inception, that remain to be adequately addressed. ‘How do novel complex traits originate?’ is such a question. How does a major invention in evolution come into being in the first place? What are the baby steps of innovation? Much of evo devo continues to reside at this junction – identifying the developmental means of evolutionary transitions.
Here's an evaluation of two evo-devo meetings in 2015 and 2017 that shows their difficulties to address macroevolutionary topics. Where is the Evo in Evo-Devo (2015)
I provide a brief discussion of the present/future of Evo-Devo, reviewing opinions expressed by colleagues with different opinions/backgrounds about what Evo-Devo should be and the potential of this flourishing field and combining them with an analysis of the recent, and excellent inaugural meeting of the Pan-American Society for Evo-Devo. As an advocate of Evo-Devo and its enormous future potential, I feel that despite our different views and fields of research, we Evo-Devoists are all in the same boat and should try our best to make sure this potential is fully expressed. Therefore, I call attention to some concerns raised by other colleagues, which in my opinion are demonstrated by a quantitative analysis of the titles/abstracts of the 56 talks at this meeting. This analysis is very simple, in order to maintain the needed objectivity and minimize bias. Yet, it is profound in its implications, precisely because of its simplicity and because this meeting is clearly a major landmark for the development/future directions of Evo-Devo. The analysis shows that terms associated with development at the more molecular/genetic level were vastly overrepresented compared to terms related to evolution or to development at the whole organism level. That is, it provides support for the idea that current Evo-Devo is mainly focused on Devo, and that Devo itself is largely focused on "Geno," that is, on molecular/genetic developmental studies. This trend seems to be leading towards a loss of focus on the whole organism and on the major microevolutionary and macroevolutionary questions/theories that remain to be solved/tested. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 9999B:XX-XX, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Where is, in 2017, the evo in evo-devo
After the inaugural Pan-American-Evo-Devo meeting (2015, Berkeley), I showed how major concerns about evo-devo (Evolutionary Developmental Biology) research were demonstrated by a simple, non-biased quantitative analysis of the titles/abstracts of that meeting's talks. Here, I apply the same methodology to the titles/abstracts of the recent Pan-American-Evo-Devo meeting (2017, Calgary). The aim is to evaluate if the concerns raised by me in that paper and by other authors have been addressed and/or if there are other types of differences between the two meetings that may reflect trends within the field of evo-devo. This analysis shows that the proportion of presentations referring to “morphology”, “organism”, “selection”, “adaptive”, “phylogeny”, and their derivatives was higher in the 2017 meeting, which therefore had a more “organismal” feel. However, there was a decrease in the use of “evolution”/its derivatives and of macroevolutionary terms related to the tempo and mode of evolution in the 2017 meeting. Moreover, the disproportionately high use of genetic/genomic terms clearly shows that evo-devo continues to be mainly focused on devo, and particularly on “Geno”, that is, on molecular/genetic studies. Furthermore, the vast majority of animal evo-devo studies are focused only on hard tissues, which are just a small fraction of the whole organism—for example, only 15% of the tissue mass of the human body. The lack of an integrative approach is also evidenced by the lack of studies addressing conceptual/long-standing broader questions, including the links between ecology and particularly behavior and developmental/evolutionary variability and between evo-devo and evolutionary medicine.
Martin_r, Very interesting comment @ 1. Thanks. OLV
"Evolution does repeat itself after all: How evolution lets stripes come and go" https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181025142037.htm or "Placental structures have evolved to support pregnancy in most organisms that give birth to live young, totaling more than 100 independent origins across the animal kingdom." https://phys.org/news/2017-03-placenta-complex-evolve.html or "Air bladders or lungs in different groups of fishes evolved multiple times" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15547792 or "Sex chromosomes evolved independently, many times, in various species" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120474/ or "Penis-baculum evolved multiple times and have been lost multiple times" https://academic.oup.com/icb/article/56/4/644/2198249 and so on... obviously, something is very wrong with the theory... martin_r

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