A quick note on a new paper in Nature on the evolution of monarch butterflies.
The authors (Zhan et al.) examine genomes of 101 genomes from the Danaus genus.
First, basic ignorance. I had no idea there were so many populations of monarchs around the world. That was nice to know.
Second, the ability of genomic research to identify the specific genes that were the basis of selection is really astounding. As someone who measures a lot of plant traits, to dive into the genomes of so many populations and species to identify traits that define species is pretty special.
With the genomic work, they really are identifying traits that we didn't know exist at the organismal level.
For example, the authors identify selection on a collagen gene that affects flight muscle function.
That's not easy to identify empirically.
In all, I'll admit I'm jealous of what the authors could put together on the monarchs and related species. Biogeography, evolution, and function all wrapped up into one paper redefining our understanding of monarch butterflies.
I'm royally jealous.