Genomes of skipper butterflies reveal extensive convergence of wing patterns

Wenlin Li, Qian Cong, Jinhui Shen, Jing Zhang, Winnie Hallwachs, Daniel H. Janzen, Nick V. Grishin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


For centuries, biologists have used phenotypes to infer evolution. For decades, a handful of gene markers have given us a glimpse of the genotype to combine with phenotypic traits. Today, we can sequence entire genomes from hundreds of species and gain yet closer scrutiny. To illustrate the power of genomics, we have chosen skipper butterflies (Hesperiidae). The genomes of 250 representative species of skippers reveal rampant inconsistencies between their current classification and a genome-based phylogeny. We use a dated genomic tree to define tribes (six new) and subtribes (six new), to overhaul genera (nine new) and subgenera (three new), and to display convergence in wing patterns that fooled researchers for decades. We find that many skippers with similar appearance are distantly related, and several skippers with distinct morphology are close relatives. These conclusions are strongly supported by different genomic regions and are consistent with some morphological traits. Our work is a forerunner to genomic biology shaping biodiversity research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6232-6237
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2019


  • Genomics
  • Higher classification
  • Lepidoptera
  • Mimicry
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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