ABS 2022
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Characterizing the genetic architecture underlying innate female mate preference in Bicyclus anynana
Jarrod Varnell, Dave Ernst, Kiana Kasmaii, Tim Sullivan, Erica Westerman. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States

Sexual selection is a powerful force that shapes species boundaries and relies on female preference due to the different energetic investments in reproduction in the sexes. Understanding the genetic architecture underlying female preference could shed light on its role in speciation and further our understanding of decision making in mate choice. To determine the heritability of female mate preference for male ornamentation in Bicyclus anynana butterflies, we developed a selection line for female mate preference for a rare male wing pattern, 4 dorsal forewing eyespots. Wild type (WT) females prefer 2 eyespot males.  Over 6 generations we established a line that exhibits higher rates of 4-sp preferring females than WT populations. A GWAS using females who vary in preference for spot number associated a small region of the B. anynana genome to preference for 4-sp males. This region contains juvenile hormone binding protein (JHBP). CRISPR knockdown of JHBP resulted in adults having an additional eyespot. This phenotype, in addition to JHBP’s association with innate preference, suggests the gene networks responsible for eyespot development are also involved in preference regulation.