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ACCE DTP project: The genetic basis of convergent evolution in tropical butterflies

Department of Biology

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Dr K Dasmahapatra , Dr N Nadeau , Dr D Jeffares No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
York United Kingdom Bioinformatics Evolution Genetics Molecular Biology Zoology

About the Project

Mimicry is a striking form of convergent evolution in which multiple species converge on the same phenotype. Defensive mimicry is common across the tree of life, and particularly impressive examples come from tropical butterflies (e.g. Heliconius, ithomiine and Papilio species). Convergence may result from different species using the same alleles, the same genes, or using different genes. The genetic control of mimicry has been well studied in the Heliconius genus. But in the Neotropics, butterflies of the species-rich ithomiine tribe are thought to be the prime distasteful models in many cases of mimicry. Yet the genetic basis of mimicry in these important species is unknown.

In this multidisciplinary project we will use range of techniques (tropical fieldwork in Ecuador and/or Colombia, high-throughput sequencing, gene expression analysis and bioinformatics) to understand the genetic basis of mimicry in an important group of ithomiine butterflies. Training in these skills will be provided through the supervisory team in York and Sheffield, together with Project Partners in in France (Dr Marianne Elias, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris), Ecuador (Dr Caroline Bacquet, IKIAM, Tena) and Colombia (Dr Camilo Salazar, Universidad del Rosario, Bogota).

This PhD project will run alongside our NERC funded project titled "The genetic basis of convergence across evolutionary time" (

Relevant publications:

Morris J, Navarro N, Rastas P, Rawlins L, Sammy J, Mallet J, Dasmahapatra KK (2019) The genetic architecture of adaptation: convergence and pleiotropy in Heliconius wing pattern evolution. Heredity. 123:138-152.

Dasmahapatra KK et al. (2012) Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature 487: 94-98.

Dasmahapatra KK, Lamas G, Simpson F, Mallet J (2010) The anatomy of a ’suture zone’ in Amazonian butterflies: a coalescent-based test for vicariant geographic divergence and speciation. Molecular Ecology 19: 4283-4301.

The ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ACCE Doctoral Training Programme. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 3.5 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)

International candidates (including EU) will be considered however they will need to have adequate funds to meet the difference in tuition fees. International tuition fees for 2021 entry is £22,250.

Not all projects will be funded; a limited number of candidates will be appointed via a competitive process.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing ecology and evolution questions. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021
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