Evolution and Diversity
Professor of Zoology and Director, University Museum of Zoology
Tel.: +44 (0) 1223 336650
I am an evolutionary biologist who works with butterflies and other insects. I have always been fascinated by the evolution of butterfly wing patterns and, in particular, by their eye-like markings known as eyespots. Can we explain the evolution of the diversity of these patterns both in terms of how they function and are influenced by natural selection, and how they are painted on the wings during development of the butterfly in the caterpillar and pupa? The mechanisms of development and physiology may contribute, alongside natural selection, to the patterns of diversity we see occurring in evolution. Our multidiscipinary research on an African butterfly, Bicyclus anynana, is enabling us not only to tackle the issues of why eyespots matter in butterfly ecology but also how they are made by genes that regulate specific developmental mechanisms. In turn we can begin to explore the extent to which the way in which development builds morphologies can contribute to shaping evolutionary trajectories, for example via different forms of bias or constraint. B. anynana inhabits a wet-dry seasonal environment and shows striking phenotypic plasticity or polyphenism; the detailed study of this phenomenon has led us to investigate the roles of suites of metabolic, physiological, morphological and life history traits (including rates of aging) in ecological adaptation. The wing androconia of males of B. anynana are also now known to produce a species-specific blend of male sex pheromones that are involved in mate choice and sexual selection. A new ERC-funded project known as EMARES will use our knowledge from these studies of a single model species to establish surveys and further experimental work to explore the processes of ecological diversification and speciation among the 250 or so species of these butterflies in the Old World tropics.
- Pijpe, J., Brakefield, P.M., and Zwaan, B.J. (2008) Increased lifespan in a polyphenic butterfly artificially selected for starvation resistance. American Naturalist 171: 81-90
- Allen, C., Beldade, P., Zwaan, B.J., Brakefield, P.M. (2008) Differences in the selection response of serially repeated color pattern characters: Standing variation, development, and evolution. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:94 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-94 (13pp)
- Nieberding, C.M., de Vos, H., Schneider, M.V., Lassance J.-M, Estramil, N., Andersson, J., Bång, J., Hedenström, E., Löfstedt, C., Brakefield, P.M. (2008) The male sex pheromone of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana: Towards an evolutionary analysis. PLoS ONE 3: e2751 (12 pp)
- Saccheri, I.J., Rousset, F., Watts, P.C., Brakefield, P.M. and Cook L.M. (2008) Selection and gene flow on a diminishing cline of melanic peppered moths. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 42: 16212-16217
- Saenko S.V., French, V., Brakefield P.M., and Beldade, P. (2008) Conserved developmental processes and the formation of evolutionary novelties: examples from butterfly wings. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B 363: 1549-1555.
- Molleman, F., Ding, J., Wang, J-L., Brakefield, P.M., Carey, J.R., and Zwaan, B.J. (2008) Amino acid sources in the adult diet do not affect life span and fecundity in the fruit-feeding butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Ecological Entomology 33: 429-438
- Lommen, S.T.E., Saenko, S.V., Tomoyasu, Y., and Brakefield, P.M. (2009) Development of a wingless morph in the ladybird beetle, Adalia bipunctata. Evolution & Development 11: 278-289
- Allen C.E., Zwaan, B.J. and Brakefield, P.M. (2010). Evolution of sexual dimorphism in the Lepidoptera. Annual Reviews of Entomology (in press)
- Saastamoinen, M., van der Sterren, D., Vastenhout, N., Zwaan, B.J. , and Brakefield, P.M. (2010). Predictive adaptive responses: Condition-dependent impact of adult nutrition and flight in the tropical butterfly, Bicyclus anynana. American Naturalist 176: XXX
- Brakefield, P.M. (2010). Radiations of mycalesine butterflies and opening up their exploration of morphospace American Naturalist 176: XXX
- Oostra, V., de Jong, M.A., Invergo, B.M., Kesbeke, F.H.N., Wende, F., Brakefield, P.M., and Zwaan, B.J. (2010). Translating environmental gradients into discontinuous reaction norms via hormone signalling in a polyphenic butterfly. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1560