Skip to main content

EVOLUTION OF CYANIDE METABOLIMS IN APOSEMATIC BUTTERFLIES: from gene characterization to community ecology


The colourful and toxic Heliconius butterflies are well-established models to study evolution of aposematims and mimicry, yet the genetic basis of their toxicity and how this varies in different populations remains unknown. Heliconius are toxic butterflies because they contain cyanide-releasing compounds called cyanogenic glucosides, which they can both biosynthesize or uptake from Passiflora plants, their co-evolutionary partner, during larval feeding. This multidisciplinary project brings together ecology, genetics, biochemistry and evolutionary biology to investigate how toxicity and interactions with Passiflora plants has shaped the evolution of these butterflies. Thus, I will combine the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas with different OMICs approaches (metabolomics, transcriptomics and phenomics) to (1) decipher the genetic and phenotipic bases of cyanogenesis in Heliconius butterflies and (2) unravel the evolutionary trajectory of this defence system in the Heliconiine tribe. Moreover, I will also (3) establish how cyanogenesis vary within and between tropical and subtropical heliconiine-Passiflora communities of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, a biodiversity hotspot endangered by extreme deforestation.
This project will give me the unique opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills repertoire on genetics, ecology, evolutionary biology and bioinformatics. I will be trained in advanced techniques such CRISPR-Cas, gene expression analysis, R programing, statistical methods applied to community ecology and matabolomics, etc. Also, during this fellowship I will excel my teaching/supervision, project management and communication abilities. All these expertise will be extremely valuable for the execution of the project and will bring great progress to my career development, increasing my chance of of reaching a long-term position in academia.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/evolutionary biology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/ecology

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 224 933,76