The butterfly plant arms-race escalated by gene and genome duplications

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Coevolutionary interactions are thought to have spurred the evolution of key innovations and driven the diversification of much of life on Earth. However, the genetic and evolutionary basis of the innovations that facilitate such interactions remains poorly understood. We examined the coevolutionary interactions between plants (Brassicales) and butterflies (Pieridae), and uncovered evidence for an escalating evolutionary arms-race. Although gradual changes in trait complexity appear to have been facilitated by allelic turnover, key innovations are associated with gene and genome duplications. Furthermore, we show that the origins of both chemical defenses and of molecular counter adaptations were associated with shifts in diversification rates during the arms-race. These findings provide an important connection between the origins of biodiversity, coevolution, and the role of gene and genome duplications as a substrate for novel traits.


  • Patrick P. Edger
  • Hanna M. Heidel-Fischer
  • Michaël Bekaert
  • Gernot Glöckner
  • Adrian E. Platts
  • David G. Heckel
  • Joshua P. Der
  • Eric K. Wafula
  • Michelle Tang
  • Johannes A. Hofberger
  • Ann Smithson
  • Jocelyn C. Hall
  • Matthieu Blanchette
  • Thomas E. Bureau
  • Stephen I. Wright
  • Claude W. DePamphilis
  • M. Eric Schranz
  • Michael S. Barker
  • Gavin C. Conant
  • Heiko Vogel
  • J. Chris Pires
  • Christopher W. Wheat
  • May R. Berenbaum
External organisations
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
  • University of Stirling
  • University of Turku
  • University of Cologne
  • McGill University
  • California State University Fullerton
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Wageningen University
  • Kings Park and Botanic Gardens
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Arizona
  • Stockholm University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Ecology


  • Chemical defenses, Coevolution, Diversification, Evolutionary novelty, Phylogenomics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8362-8366
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jul 7
Publication categoryResearch