We are coming to the end of what has been a very fruitful collaboration with the Mashpi Reserve and Lodge in Ecuador. We have been conducting crosses between the local iridescent races of butterflies H. erato and H. melpomene and non-iridescent races. We now have big, second-generation broods from these crosses and can clearly see that there is a lot of variation in iridescent colour. We now begin the huge task of measuring and quantifying this variation and relating it to variation in the genome to find the genes responsible. However, none of this would have been possible without the hard work of our collaborators in Ecuador. In particular, Darwin Chala, who is local to Mashpi and has been hugely successful in running the crosses for the past six months, under the supervision of local scientist Carlos Morochz (Carlos and Darwin, that has to be a good omen!) and Patricio Salazar from the Universidad Indoamérica.
I hope they have got as much out of it as we have. Certainly, our research seems to have enhanced the experience of visitors to the lodge and the staff also seemed to gain a deeper appreciation of their amazing and unique local environment, which can generate things as splendid and intricate is iridescent structural colours. I hope that this will be the first project of many that we will work on together.