Evolutionary genetics of dorsal wing colour in Colias butterflies

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The evolution of butterfly wing colouration is strongly affected by its multiple functions and by the correlated evolution of wing colour elements. Both factors may prevent local adaptation to ecological conditions. We investigated one aspect of wing colouration, the degree of dorsal wing melanization, in the butterfly Colias philodice eriphyle across an elevational gradient and its correlation with another aspect of wing colouration, ventral wing melanization. Dorsal wing melanization increased with elevation and these differences persisted in a common environment. Full-sibling analysis revealed high heritability for males but only intermediate heritability for females. The correlation between ventral and dorsal melanization showed significant elevational and sex-specific differences. In males the two traits were highly correlated, whereas in females the strength of the correlation decreased with increasing elevation. We conclude that uncoupling of ventral and dorsal melanization has evolved in females but not in males and discuss possible mechanisms underlying uncoupling.

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