Comparative transcriptomics of albino and warningly‐coloured caterpillars
Galarza, J. A. (2021). Comparative transcriptomics of albino and warningly‐coloured caterpillars. Ecology and Evolution, Early online. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7581
Published inEcology and Evolution
© 2021 the Authors
Coloration is perhaps one of the most prominent adaptations for survival and reproduction of many taxa. Coloration is of particular importance for aposematic species, which rely on their coloring and patterning acting as a warning signal to deter predators. Most research has focused on the evolution of warning coloration by natural selection. However, little information is available for color mutants of aposematic species, particularly at the genomic level. Here, I compare the transcriptomes of albino mutant caterpillars of the aposematic wood tiger moth (Arctia plantaginis) to those of their full sibs having their distinctive orange‐black warning coloration. The results showed >290 differentially expressed genes genome‐wide. Genes involved in the immune system, structural constituents of cuticular, and immunity were mostly downregulated in the albino caterpillars. Surprisingly, higher expression was observed in core melanin genes from albino caterpillars, suggesting that melanin synthesis may be disrupted in terminal ends of the pathway during its final conversion. Taken together, these results suggest that caterpillar albinism may not be due to a depletion of melanin precursor genes. In contrast, the albino condition may result from the combination of faulty melanin conversion late in its synthesis and structural deficiencies in the cuticular preventing its deposition. The results are discussed in the context of how albinism may impact individuals of aposematic species in the wild. ...