Letters to Nature

Nature 415, 315-318 (17 January 2002) | doi:10.1038/415315a; Received 16 August 2001; Accepted 8 November 2001

Contribution of Distal-less to quantitative variation in butterfly eyespots

Patrícia Beldade1, Paul M. Brakefield1 & Anthony D. Long2

  1. Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, University of Leiden, PO Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, California 92612, USA

Correspondence to: Patrícia Beldade1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.B. (e-mail: Email: pbeldade@rulsfb.leidenuniv.nl).

The colour patterns decorating butterfly wings provide ideal material to study the reciprocal interactions between evolution and development. They are visually compelling products of selection, often with a clear adaptive value, and are amenable to a detailed developmental characterization1. Research on wing-pattern evolution and development has focused on the eyespots of the tropical butterfly Bicyclus anynana 2. There is quantitative variation for several features of eyespot morphology3, 4, 5 but the actual genes contributing to such variation are unknown. On the other hand, studies of gene expression patterns in wing primordia have implicated different developmental pathways in eyespot formation6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. To link these two sets of information we need to identify which genes within the implicated pathways contribute to the quantitative variation accessible to natural selection. Here we begin to bridge this gap by demonstrating linkage between DNA polymorphisms in the candidate gene Distal-less (Dll) and eyespot size in B. anynana.