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Department of Biological Sciences


Butterfly eyespots are beautiful novel traits with an unknown developmental origin. Here we show that eyespots likely originated via cooption of parts of an ancestral appendage gene-regulatory network (GRN) to novel locations on the wing. Using comparative transcriptome analysis, we show that eyespots cluster most closely with antennae, relative to multiple other tissues. Furthermore, three genes essential for eyespot development, (), (), and (), share similar regulatory connections as those observed in the antennal GRN. CRISPR knockout of -regulatory elements (CREs) for and led to the loss of eyespots, antennae, legs, and also wings, demonstrating that these CREs are highly pleiotropic. We conclude that eyespots likely reused an ancient GRN for their development, a network also previously implicated in the development of antennae, legs, and wings.

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© 2022. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


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Biology Commons



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