Scientists create hybrid butterfly species in lab
Scientists said on Thursday that they have created a distinctive red and yellow butterfly in the laboratory by interbreeding two different species in a way similar to what they believe has occurred in nature.india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 11:12 IST
Scientists said on Thursday that they have created a distinctive red and yellow butterfly in the laboratory by interbreeding two different species in a way similar to what they believe has occurred in nature.
The laboratory hybrid is nearly identical to a wild species of butterfly in Colombia known as Heliconius heurippa. “We recreated the evolutionary steps that may have given rise to Heliconius heurippa, a hybrid butterfly species, in the lab,” said Jesus Mavarez of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama.
Animal hybrids are thought to be very rare because they are less able to survive. The mule for example, a hybrid between a donkey and a horse, is sterile so it is an evolutionary dead end.
But some hybrids survive and establish new species. The achievement, which is reported in Nature, suggests animal hybrids could be more common than previously thought.
The scientists began their experiments after noticing that Heliconius heurippa’s distinct wing pattern was similar to two other species of butterfly. After interbreeding the two types, they found the laboratory hybrid was very similar to the wild species.
The scientists said the colour pattern on the wing of Heliconius heurippa, which is a mating cue, makes it unattractive to members of their parents’ species but attractive to each other.