The Butterfly Effect

Photo by Drew Reynolds, via UChicago Magazine

Photo by Drew Reynolds, via UChicago Magazine

Marcus Kronforst, PhD

Marcus Kronforst, PhD

Sometimes the simplest structures can teach us important lessons about evolution. In a tropical greenhouse on top of the Donnelley Biological Sciences Learning Center here on campus, Marcus Kronforst, PhD, assistant professor of ecology and evolution, studies butterfly wings to see how the genetics of color patterns can tell the tale of adaptation throughout nature. Kronforst talks about his work in a feature for the latest issue of the University of Chicago Magazine:

“Adaptation is actually causing the origin of a new species,” Kronforst says, referring to a discovery he helped detail in a 2009 Science paper. “We’re trying to tackle these big questions of how organisms adapt and diverge.”

Kronforst published a breakthrough paper last year in which he and his colleagues described how they sequenced the genome of a butterfly species and found that it shared the same color-patterning DNA with two other species.

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Dasmahapatra K.K., Walters J.R., Briscoe A.D., Davey J.W., Whibley A., Nadeau N.J., Zimin A.V., Hughes D.S.T., Ferguson L.C. & Martin S.H. & (2012). Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species, Nature, DOI:

About Matt Wood (514 Articles)

Matt Wood is a senior science writer at the University of Chicago Medicine and nonfiction editor for Another Chicago Magazine.

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