University of Cambridge > > Zoology Departmental Seminar Series > Evolutionary Genetics of Visual Preferences: Beauty, Brains and Butterfly Diversity

Evolutionary Genetics of Visual Preferences: Beauty, Brains and Butterfly Diversity

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Emília Santos.

Visual attraction is an important driver of mate choice and sexual selection, but little is known about the underlying genes, or how they evolve. I will talk about a long-term project focused on the genetics and sensory ecology of visual preferences that are known to contribute to speciation in Heliconius butterflies. By combining population genomic and gene expression analyses, data from hundreds of behavioural experiments, and genome editing using CRISPR /Cas9, we have been able to link a specific gene to the evolution of visual preference behaviours. I will discuss how these results i) implicate a role for interspecific hybridization, and adaptive introgression, during the evolution of behaviour; and ii) also show how visually-guided behaviours contributing to adaptation and speciation can be encoded within the genome. Finally, I hope to introduce some emerging work in which we are attempting to place these results within the broader context of visual evolution, including the specific cues involved and shifts in visual acuity associated with changes in habitat.

This talk is part of the Zoology Departmental Seminar Series series.

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