So what has the ERC ever done for us? Quite a lot, say Cambridge academics, as they mark the 10th anniversary of Europe’s premier research-funding body
Heliconius butterflies have evolved bright yellow colours to deter predators, while peppered moths famously turned black to hide from birds. A new study reveals that the same gene causes both, raising fascinating questions about how evolution by natural selection occurs in these species.
Research finds independent genetic switches control different splotches of colour and pattern on Heliconius butterfly wings, and that these switches have been shared between species over millions of years, becoming “jumbled up” to create new and diverse wing displays.
Unlike their male counterparts, the female Heliconius butterflies have taste receptors on their legs in order to pick the best plants on which to lay their eggs.
How two butterfly species have evolved exactly the same striking wing colour and pattern has intrigued biologists since Darwin's day. Now, scientists at Cambridge have found "hotspots" in the butterflies' genes that they believe will explain one of the most extraordinary examples of mimicry in the natural world.