Association between molecular markers and behavioral phenotypes in the immatures of a butterfly

<div><p>Abstract Newly hatched caterpillars of the butterfly Heliconius erato phyllis routinely cannibalize eggs. In a manifestation of kin recognition they cannibalize sibling eggs less frequently than unrelated eggs. Previous work has estimated the heritability of kin recognition in H. erato phyllis to lie between 14 and 48%. It has furthermore been shown that the inheritance of kin recognition is compatible with a quantitative model with a threshold. Here we present the results of a preliminary study, in which we tested for associations between behavioral kin recognition phenotypes and AFLP and SSR markers. We implemented two experimental approaches: (1) a cannibalism test using sibling eggs only, which allowed for only two behavioral outcomes (cannibal and non-cannibal), and (2) a cannibalism test using two sibling eggs and one unrelated egg, which allowed four outcomes [cannibal who does not recognize siblings, cannibal who recognizes siblings, “super-cannibal” (cannibal of both eggs), and “super non-cannibal” (does not cannibalize eggs at all)]. Single-marker analyses were performed using χ2 tests and logistic regression with null markers as covariates. Results of the χ2 tests identified 72 associations for experimental design 1 and 73 associations for design 2. Logistic regression analysis of the markers found to be significant in the χ2 test resulted in 20 associations for design 1 and 11 associations for design 2. Experiment 2 identified markers that were more frequently present or absent in cannibals who recognize siblings and super non-cannibals; i.e. in both phenotypes capable of kin recognition.</p></div>