Transposable elements (TEs) play major roles in the evolution of genome structure and function. However, because of their repetitive nature, they are difficult to annotate and discovering the specific roles they may play in a lineage can be a daunting task. Heliconiine butterflies are models for the study of multiple evolutionary processes including phenotype evolution and hybridization. We attempted to determine how TEs may play a role in the diversification of genomes within this clade by performing a detailed examination of TE content and accumulation in 19 species whose genomes were recently sequenced. We found that TE content has diverged substantially and rapidly in the time since several subclades shared a common ancestor with each lineage harboring a unique TE repertoire. Several novel SINE lineages have been established that are restricted to a subset of species. Furthermore, the previously described SINE, Metulj, appears to have gone extinct in two subclades while expanding to significant numbers in others. This diversity in TE content and activity has the potential to impact how heliconiine butterflies continue to evolve and diverge.
- transposable elements