The Glanville fritillary genome retains an ancient karyotype and reveals selective chromosomal fusions in Lepidoptera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous studies have reported that chromosome synteny in Lepidoptera has been well conserved, yet the number of haploid chromosomes varies widely from 5 to 223. Here we report the genome (393 Mb) of the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia; Nymphalidae), a widely recognized model species in metapopulation biology and eco-evolutionary research, which has the putative ancestral karyotype of n=31. Using a phylogenetic analyses of Nymphalidae and of other Lepidoptera, combined with orthologue-level comparisons of chromosomes, we conclude that the ancestral lepidopteran karyotype has been n=31 for at least 140 My. We show that fusion chromosomes have retained the ancestral chromosome segments and very few rearrangements have occurred across the fusion sites. The same, shortest ancestral chromosomes have independently participated in fusion events in species with smaller karyotypes. The short chromosomes have higher rearrangement rate than long ones. These characteristics highlight distinctive features of the evolutionary dynamics of butterflies and moths.


  • Virpi Ahola
  • Rainer Lehtonen
  • Panu Somervuo
  • Leena Salmela
  • Patrik Koskinen
  • Pasi Rastas
  • Niko Välimäki
  • Lars Paulin
  • Jouni Kvist
  • Jaakko Tanskanen
  • Emily A. Hornett
  • Laura C. Ferguson
  • Shiqi Luo
  • Zijuan Cao
  • Maaike A. De Jong
  • Olli Pekka Smolander
  • Heiko Vogel
  • Rajiv C. McCoy
  • Kui Qian
  • Wong Swee Chong
  • Qin Zhang
  • Freed Ahmad
  • Jani K. Haukka
  • Aruj Joshi
  • Jarkko Salojärvi
  • Christopher W. Wheat
  • Ewald Grosse-Wilde
  • Daniel Hughes
  • Riku Katainen
  • Esa Pitkänen
  • Johannes Ylinen
  • Robert M. Waterhouse
  • Mikko Turunen
  • Anna Vähärautio
  • Sami P. Ojanen
  • Alan H. Schulman
  • Minna Taipale
  • Daniel Lawson
  • Esko Ukkonen
  • Veli Mäkinen
  • Marian R. Goldsmith
  • Liisa Holm
  • Petri Auvinen
  • Mikko J. Frilander
  • Ilkka Hanski
External organisations
  • University of Helsinki
  • University of Turku
  • MTT Agrifood Research Finland
  • University of Cambridge
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Oxford
  • Peking University
  • University of Bristol
  • Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
  • Stanford University
  • University of Tampere
  • Stockholm University
  • European Bioinformatics Institute
  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • University of Geneva
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Broad Institute
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • University of Rhode Island
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Genetics
Original languageEnglish
Article number4737
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes