29 June 2010

#evol2010 day 3: In which butterflies self-medicate and Orr conjectures

ResearchBlogging.orgHow do you know it's getting to be the end of the Evolution 2010 meetings? Because I didn't get to this until this morning, in the back rows of the SSE symposium on evolutionary prediction. But the third day of the meetings were great, with cool natural history and a great address by SSE president H. Allen Orr.

And don't forget to check out the daily wrap-up audiocast over at Evolution, Development, and Genomics, which was just endorsed by none other than Carl Zimmer.
A monarch butterfly. Photo by mikebaird.
  • Thierry Lefevre presented evidence that female monarch butterflies infected with a microbial parasite lay their eggs on host plants with more toxins that can fight the parasite.
  • Susan Dudley presented new work on kin recognition in the small annual plant Cakile edentula, in which the plants grow less aggressively if planted next to close relatives.
  • Ian Pearse presented evidence that introduced oak species were more likely to be attacked by a native herbivore if they were more closely related to native oak species.
  • Finally, H. Allen Orr capped the day with an SSE presidential address that focused on what we know—and what we don't—about how reproductive isolation evolves and creates new species. Orr concluded with three conjectures:
    • Extrinsic postzygotic isolation is usually due to adaptation to ecological conditions,
    • Intrinsic postzygotic isolation is usually due to adaptation to the intrinsic environment within the genome, and
    • Prezygotic isolation is usually due to sexual selection.
    The idea, of course, is to collect the data to test these conjectures. But I'd say these make pretty good sense based on what we already know.
Edit, 2010.06.30: Swapped the original photo for one that actually depicts a monarch butterfly, as discussed in the comments (thanks, Julie!).

Primary literature referenced

Dudley, S., & File, A. (2007). Kin recognition in an annual plant. Biology Letters, 3 (4), 435-8 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0232


  1. Nice butterfly photo, but it looks like a queen (Danaus gilippus) which is a different species from the monarch (D. plexippus.)

  2. Argh! Flickr taxonomy burns me yet again. Thanks, Julie—I'll swapping it out for D. plexippus.