This week, a paper I co-authored on the demographic history of the butterfly, E. gillettii, was accepted to Molecular Ecology and Evolution.
In this paper, we recover the demographic history of this small population of E. gillettii that was artificially transferred from Wyoming to Colorado. Wyoming and Colorado are neighboring states that are separated by the rocky mountains. In the 1970s, Paul Erlich (in our biology department) noticed that there were several Gilletii butterflies in Wyoming, but none in Colorado. As far as he could discern, the two environments were identical, and therefore, he was puzzled as to why the butterflies existed in one region and not the other. He speculated that it was possibly due to the physical barrier of the rocky mountains. As a test, he transported several Gilettii to Colorado and measured their population size every year.
Rajiv McCoy, the first author of this paper, performed a de novo RNA seq transcriptome assembly of this non-model organism. We then used this data to perform a demographic analysis using the software DaDi, and found that even with very small sample sizes, we are able to accurately recover the demographic history of this butterfly.