Butterfly Evolves in Blink of Eye

Parasite forces hyper-speed adaptation in male blue moon butterflies
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2007 8:20 AM CDT
Butterfly Evolves in Blink of Eye
Common Eggfly, commonly known as "Blue Moon Butterfly" Hypolimnas bolina. Taken in the Melbourne Zoo, Nov 2006   (www.flagstaffphotos.com)

One of the fastest evolutionary changes ever observed has been witnessed by scientists studying butterflies in the South Pacific, the BBC reports. Blue Moon butterflies managed to fight off a deadly parasitic bacteria by developing suppressor genes to fight the bacteria in just six years. Hard-hit males rebounded from 1% of the population to 40% in that time.

"We usually think of natural selection as acting over hundreds of thousands of years, but in this study [it] happened in the blink of the eye," said a scientist. Investigators are uncertain if the gene developed as a mutation or was introduced by migratory butterflies. The findings reveal how such biological "arms races" can drive evolution. (More nature stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.