The beautiful colors and patterns present on butterfly wings are given by genes, so the gene-editing technology allowed scientists to alter these patterns, and design the wings after their own liking. Although this experiment looks more like a game, it can have major implications to how we understand evolution, and the roles gene play in shaping diversity among creatures.
CRISPR could also show scientists how genes work
With the help of the advanced gene-editing technology CRISPR, researchers analyzed a gene called WntA, and studied its role in shaping the beautiful patterns on butterfly wings. After they had removed the gene from seven species, they observed how the colors and patterns on their wings became drastically different. The butterfly wings suffered changes that researchers wouldn’t have expected to see.
Therefore, they identified the WntA gene as vital in establishing color patterns on butterfly wings. Until now, scientists were aware the purpose behind these intricate designs was either sexual or camouflage, but they couldn’t decipher the mechanism which created the patterns. However, thanks to CRISPR technology, they managed to see how these patterns evolved over time and across different butterfly species.
This study is vital for understanding the evolution of biodiversity
As butterflies were still in a caterpillar state, researchers identified the WntA gene, and used CRISPR to deactivate it. Then, they monitored their growth, and documented all pattern changes suffered by the specimens. This apparently simple research can reveal more about evolution, and even about us humans as a species.
Patterns are vital in the development of life, as they are the key to the functioning of many organs and mechanisms. By looking at how butterfly wings develop, we can get an insight on how patterns are produced, and how they lead to the evolution of more complex life forms. All the other details of the study have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Image Source: Pixabay