Science Life

swallowtail butterflies Several different swallowtail butterfly variations showing mimicry and polymorphism, or different forms of the same species. In the center, a female Papilio polytes that mimics another species that is toxic to predators. (Credit: Matt Wood)

Female swallowtail butterflies do something a lot of butterflies do to survive: they mimic wing patterns, shapes and colors of other species that are toxic to predators. Some – but not all – swallowtail species have evolved several different forms of this trait. But what kind of genetic changes led to these various disguises, and why would some species maintain an undisguised form when mimicry provides an obvious evolutionary advantage?

In a new study published this week in Nature Communications, scientists from the University of Chicago analyze genetic data from a group of swallowtail species to find out when and how mimicry first evolved, and what has been driving those changes since then. It’s…

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