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Article Dans Une Revue Genome Biology and Evolution Année : 2023

Genomics, population divergence and historical demography of the world’s largest and endangered butterfly, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing

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The world’s largest butterfly is the microendemic Papua New Guinean Ornithoptera alexandrae. Despite years of conservation efforts to protect its habitat and breed this up-to-28-cm butterfly, this species still figures as endangered in the IUCN Red List and is only known from two allopatric populations occupying a total of only ∼140 km². Here we aim at assembling reference genomes for this species to investigate its genomic diversity, historical demography and determining whether the population is structured, which could provide guidance for conservation programs attempting to (inter)breed the two populations. Using a combination of long and short DNA reads and RNA sequencing, we assembled six reference genomes of the tribe Troidini, with four annotated genomes of O. alexandrae and two genomes of related species O. priamus and Troides oblongomaculatus. We estimated the genomic diversity of the three species, and we proposed scenarios for the historical population demography using two polymorphism-based methods taking into account the characteristics of low-polymorphic invertebrates. Indeed, chromosome-scale assemblies reveal very low levels of nuclear heterozygosity across Troidini, which appears to be exceptionally low for O. alexandrae (lower than 0.01%). Demographic analyses demonstrate low and steadily declining Ne throughout O. alexandrae history, with a divergence into two distinct populations about 10,000 years ago. These results suggest that O. alexandrae distribution has been microendemic for a long time. It should also make local conservation programs aware of the genomic divergence of the two populations, which should not be ignored if any attempt is made to cross the two populations.
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hal-04050092 , version 1 (29-03-2023)
hal-04050092 , version 2 (27-10-2023)

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Eliette L Reboud, Benoit Nabholz, Emmanuelle Chevalier, Marie-Ka Tilak, Darren Bito, et al.. Genomics, population divergence and historical demography of the world’s largest and endangered butterfly, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2023, 15 (4), pp.evad040. ⟨10.1093/gbe/evad040⟩. ⟨hal-04050092v2⟩
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