Tiger Swallowtail Genome Reveals Mechanisms for Speciation and Caterpillar Chemical Defense

This week we will discuss a paper by Cong et al. (2015, Cell) on the genomics of speciation in butterflies.

Please note that it will take place in the aquarium on Friday the 8th at 12!



  • Genome sequence of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the first for the Papilionidae family
  • A cost-effective protocol to sequence and assemble highly heterozygous genomes
  • Molecular basis for terpene synthesis in the Papilionidae-specific organ, osmeterium
  • Mutations in circadian clock proteins that dictate different timing of pupal diapause


Predicting phenotype from genotype represents the epitome of biological questions. Comparative genomics of appropriate model organisms holds the promise of making it possible. However, the high heterozygosity of many Eukaryotes currently prohibits assembling their genomes. Here, we report the 376 Mb genome sequence of Papilio glaucus (Pgl), the first sequenced genome from the Papilionidae family. We obtained the genome from a wild-caught specimen using a cost-effective strategy that overcomes the high (2%) heterozygosity problem. Comparative analyses suggest the molecular bases of various phenotypic traits, including terpene production in the Papilionidae-specific organ, osmeterium. Comparison of Pgl and Papilio canadensis transcriptomes reveals mutation hotspots (4% genes) associated with their divergence: four key circadian clock proteins are enriched in inter-species mutations and likely responsible for the difference in pupal diapause. Finally, the Pgl genome confirms Papilio appalachiensis as a hybrid of Pgl and Pca, but suggests it inherited 3/4 of its genes from Pca.

Published May 5, 2015 2:17 PM - Last modified May 5, 2015 2:17 PM