Repository logo

Estimation of the spontaneous mutation rate in Heliconius melpomene.

Change log


Keightley, Peter D 
Pinharanda, Ana 
Ness, Rob W 
Simpson, Fraser 
Dasmahapatra, Kanchon K 


We estimated the spontaneous mutation rate in Heliconius melpomene by genome sequencing of a pair of parents and 30 of their offspring, based on the ratio of number of de novo heterozygotes to the number of callable site-individuals. We detected nine new mutations, each one affecting a single site in a single offspring. This yields an estimated mutation rate of 2.9 × 10(-9) (95% confidence interval, 1.3 × 10(-9)-5.5 × 10(-9)), which is similar to recent estimates in Drosophila melanogaster, the only other insect species in which the mutation rate has been directly estimated. We infer that recent effective population size of H. melpomene is about 2 million, a substantially lower value than its census size, suggesting a role for natural selection reducing diversity. We estimate that H. melpomene diverged from its Müllerian comimic H. erato about 6 Ma, a somewhat later date than estimates based on a local molecular clock.



Heliconius, genome sequencing, mutation, Animals, Butterflies, Drosophila melanogaster, Evolution, Molecular, Female, Genome, Insect, Male, Mutation Rate, Phylogeny, Population Density, Selection, Genetic, Sequence Analysis, DNA

Journal Title

Mol Biol Evol

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Oxford University Press (OUP)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/H01439X/1)
CJ was funded by BBSRC [H01439X/1], JWD was funded by the Herchel Smith Fund and PDK and RWN were funded by the BBSRC.