Speciation in the Butterfly Essay

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Recent studies into the genome of the various Heliconius butterflies, has shown a clear indication of the process of speciation. Speciation is usually thought of as a long term process, just like the process of evolution. Very few changes to the genome are needed to create the possibility of a new species evolving- even if the original species is still in contact and reproducing. Once the changes to the genome have begun, the evolutionary divergence is a rapid process that results in a new genetically isolated species. Speciation is the divergence of a population into different species. There are two forms of speciation; allopatric, where physical or environmental factors can cause a population to form a new species, or sympatric, where a…show more content…
Researchers have analyzed the genome of two subspecies of the Heliconius butterfly- having only recently diverged into subspecies- in order to locate the genetic differences that are the critical points for speciation. These two subspecies are still able to interbreed and are located in the similar ecological habitats; therefore these butterflies will be able to experience a small amount of genetic exchange. This ability of regular exchange causes the unimportant variants in the process of speciation to become silent- the researchers found that this allowed them to locate the main genetic areas that natural selection has influenced. In the research they determined that the two Heliconius butterfly species genome had only 12 differing regions and the rest of the genome was nearly identical. Of the 12 differences eight of these they found to code for the wing color patterning, a key trait as it affects mating and avoiding predators in their perspective environments, the other four were still yet undetermined. In a second test they compared the two previous genomes to a third Heliconius species. The third species was farther removed on the evolutionary time scale but was still closely related to the previous groups. The comparison showed the genomes to have hundreds of differences; they concluded that once the initial genetic changes
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