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Gene flow and the genealogical history of Heliconius heurippa

Camilo Salazar1*, Chris D Jiggins2, Jesse E Taylor3, Marcus R Kronforst4 and Mauricio Linares1

Author Affiliations

1 Instituto de Genética, Departamento de Ciencias Biologicas, Universidad de los Andes, P.O. Box 4976, Bogotá, Colombia

2 University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology, Downing street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

3 Department of Statistics, Oxford University, 1 South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3TG, UK

4 FAS, Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, 7 Divinity Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:132  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-132

Published: 2 May 2008



The neotropical butterfly Heliconius heurippa has a hybrid colour pattern, which also contributes to reproductive isolation, making it a likely example of hybrid speciation. Here we used phylogenetic and coalescent-based analyses of multilocus sequence data to investigate the origin of H. heurippa.


We sequenced a mitochondrial region (CoI and CoII), a sex-linked locus (Tpi) and two autosomal loci (w and sd) from H. heurippa and the putative parental species, H. cydno and H. melpomene. These were analysed in combination with data from two previously sequenced autosomal loci, Dll and Inv. H. heurippa was monophyletic at mtDNA and Tpi, but showed a shared distribution of alleles derived from both parental lineages at all four autosomal loci. Estimates of genetic differentiation showed that H. heurippa is closer to H. cydno at mtDNA and three autosomal loci, intermediate at Tpi, and closer to H. melpomene at Dll. Using coalescent simulations with the Isolation-Migration model (IM), we attempted to establish the incidence of gene flow in the origin of H. heurippa. This analysis suggested that ongoing introgression is frequent between all three species and variable in extent between loci.


Introgression, which is a necessary precursor of hybrid speciation, seems to have also blurred the coalescent history of these species. The origin of Heliconius heurippa may have been restricted to introgression of few colour pattern genes from H. melpomene into the H. cydno genome, with little evidence of genomic mosaicism.