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Scientists pinpoint genes behind butterfly wing patterns
Passion butterfly wing pattern produced by gene editing. Image: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Via two different gene editing studies, scientists have found that the intricate colors and patterns of butterfly wings develop thanks to just two genes, per Nature.

  • The technique: The research teams used the CRISPR gene editing technique to "turn off" two separate genes — called WntA and optix — to observe the results on the wings of several butterfly species.
  • The results: The WntA gene was found to set borders for the patterns on butterflies' wings as turning it off led colors to bleed together and fade. And the optix gene seemed to do more than just control colors, turning some individuals black or grey while creating iridescence in other butterflies, indicating that the genes also influence the architecture of the wings.
  • Why it matters: The results show how gene editing techniques can be used to discover more about evolution in a laboratory setting.