Butterfly Mimicry Is Based on Elegant Genetic Switches | The Institute for Creation Research
Butterfly Mimicry Is Based on Elegant Genetic Switches

Two species of passion-vine butterflies share the same wing patterns and coloring, which some scientists believe provide “some of the most striking examples of adaptation by natural selection.”1 But specifically how these patterns emerged through natural selection has not been worked out in detail. So an international team of scientists sought more specifics by examining the Heliconius butterflies’ genes, and what they found was unexpected.

The researchers compared the genomes of the two Heliconius species to see whether the same genes in each were responsible for the identical wing coloring and patterns. They observed that the butterflies had obviously “undergone rapid speciation and divergence.”2 But the often-touted mechanism for adaptation―natural selection―predicts that variation leading to divergence should develop slowly. It would take a long time for single mutations to be selected out of an interbreeding population, and then for that mutant trait to eventually become fixed into a population.

The speed with which these butterfly wing patterns were expressed in stable populations does not seem to fit the old formula. Instead, the study’s “results imply that despite the many thousands of genes in the genome there are only one or two that are useful for changing this colour pattern.”2

The researchers did not detect many differences among genes that specify core body and cellular processes. Thus, according to co-author Chris Jiggins of the University of Cambridge, “It seems like evolution might be concentrated in quite small regions of the genome―or hotspots―while the rest of it does not change very much.”2 In other words, the key to unlocking a storehouse of wide-ranging variation potential is simply the alteration of just one or two out of many thousands of genes.

The idea may be somewhat new to evolutionary thinking, but this concept has been a theme within creation thinking for a long time. The “hotspots” or keys that unlock certain trait varieties appear to be strategically organized for just that purpose. Also, why would “natural selection,” or any other broadly applicable natural principle, only apply to one or two genes while ignoring the vast majority of the organism’s DNA?

In addition to the passion-vine butterflies, rapid and regulated variation has been observed in dog fur texture,3 dog sizes,4 and other canine breed-defining features.5 Similar patterns were found in African cichlid fish,6 human skull shapes,7 columbine flower colors,8 finch beaks,9 fruit fly development,10 and snail shell sizes.11 In every case, the variation is referred to as “evolution” in the various scientific studies and media reports, but in no case does it follow evolution’s supposed pattern of mutant selection.

Imagine a boulder placed on the edge of a cliff. When tipped over the edge, it breaks into pieces as it strikes obstacles, each piece fragmenting again and again. No resulting fragment will be exactly alike, but all of them share the same chemical essence even though they have lost the original boulder’s potential to express the same wide variety.

In a like manner, passion-vine butterfly wings, and many other visible patterns among life forms, appear to have been set up at one point in time with the potential to diversify, multiply, and fill various environments, while still maintaining their distinct, recognizable types. This speaks to precise engineering, not undirected natural forces.

References

  1. Counterman, B. A. et al. 2010. Genomic Hotspots for Adaptation: The Population Genetics of Müllerian Mimicry in Heliconius erato. PLoS Genetics. 6 (2): e1000796. See also Baxter, S. W. et al. 2010. Genomic Hotspots for Adaptation: The Population Genetics of Müllerian Mimicry in the Heliconius melpomene Clade. PLoS Genetics. 6 (2): e1000794.
  2. How the butterflies got their spots. University of Cambridge press release, February 5, 2010.
  3. Thomas, B. Dog Coat Varieties Come from a ‘Surprisingly’ Elegant Program. ICR News. Posted on icr.org September 8, 2009, accessed March 9, 2010.
  4. Thomas, B. Small Dogs Came from the Middle East. ICR News. Posted on icr.org March 9, 2010, accessed March 9, 2010.
  5. Thomas, B. Rapid Variation in Dog Breeds Is 'Regulated,' Not 'Evolved.' ICR News. Posted on icr.org February 2, 2010, accessed March 9, 2010.
  6. Thomas, B. Cichlid Coloration Corroborates Creation. ICR News. Posted on icr.org October 16, 2008, accessed March 9, 2010.
  7. Thomas, B. No Evolution Found in Human Facial Differences. ICR News. Posted on icr.org May 1, 2009, accessed March 9, 2010.
  8. Thomas, B. Flower Color Changes: Evolution or Creation in Action? ICR News. Posted on icr.org July 23, 2009, accessed March 9, 2010.
  9. Thomas, B. Evolutionary Biologists Rethink Evolution. ICR News. Posted on icr.org February 3, 2010, accessed March 9, 2010.
  10. Thomas, B. Gene Construction Confirms Creation. ICR News. Posted on icr.org April 17, 2009, accessed March 9, 2010.
  11. Thomas, B. Snail Changes Outpace Evolution's Slow Crawl. ICR News. Posted on icr.org April 14, 2009, accessed March 9, 2010.

Image credit: Forest and Kim Starr

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on March 18, 2010.

The Latest
NEWS
Dubious Views on Octopus Evolution
The octopus is one of the most amazing animals in God’s creation.1 Now, A new paper in Genome Biology and Evolution indicates...

NEWS
Microraptor Ate Mammals But Was Not a Dinosaur
The recent claim of a nearly half-inch mammal foot in the stomach of a ‘dinosaur’ is tainted by evolutionary dogma.1 The fossil...

NEWS
Dr. John Morris Is at Home with His Lord
Dr. John Morris passed peacefully away on January 29, 2023, at the age of 76. He was deeply respected and dearly loved by family, friends, and colleagues....

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Scripture Memory & Archaeological Evidence | Creation.Live Podcast:...
"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11 NKJV). Scripture memory was important thousands of years...

NEWS
Webb Telescope Continues to Challenge Big Bang
Data obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continue to challenge expectations of Big Bang proponents.1,2 The JWST is designed...

CREATION PODCAST
The Truth About the Chimp Genome (Humans & Chimps: Part 2) |...
Have scientists proven human evolution from a "common apelike ancestor," or are we being told a clever, confusing story filled with farcical...

NEWS
World's Oldest Meal
The Ediacara biota is a sporadic faunal (animal) stage containing unique soft-bodied fossil creatures in sandstone from the Ediacaran System dating...

NEWS
No Microbes on Mars
Mars is a lifeless world. But those holding to a naturalistic worldview continue to have hope—even faith—that the Red Planet was at...

NEWS
Flood Explains Grouping of Ichthyosaurs
The discovery of dozens of ichthyosaur fossils in Nevada was announced in the journal Current Biology.1 Seven 50-foot long ichthyosaurs of...

NEWS
Frog Stripe Evolution?
Color patterns in animals, whether vertebrates or invertebrates, are designed by the Creator for camouflage, warning, courtship, or, simply, for the...