Genetic switch in UV response of mimicry-related pale-yellow colors in Batesian mimic butterfly, Papilio polytes

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Science Advances  08 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 2, eabd6475
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd6475


In a Batesian mimic butterfly Papilio polytes, mimetic females resemble an unpalatable model, Pachliopta aristolochiae, but exhibit a different color pattern from nonmimetic females and males. In particular, the pale-yellow region on hind wings, which correspondingly sends important putative signals for mimicry and mate preference, is different in shape and chemical features between nonmimetic and mimetic morphs. Recently, we found that mimetic-type doublesex [dsx (H)] causes mimetic traits; however, the control of dimorphic pale-yellow colors remains unclear. Here, we revealed that dsx (H) switched the pale-yellow colors from UV-excited fluorescent type (nonmimetic) to UV-reflecting type (mimetic), by repressing the papiliochrome II synthesis genes and nanostructural changes in wing scales. Photoreceptor reactivities showed that some birds and butterflies could effectively recognize mimetic and nonmimetic pale-yellow colors, suggesting that a genetic switch in the UV response of pale-yellow colors may play essential roles in establishing the dimorphic female-limited Batesian mimicry.

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