William Owen McMillan
Staff Scientist and Dean of Academic Programs
Address: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
ATT: William Owen McMillan
9100 PANAMA CITY PL
Washington DC 20521-9100
Telephone: +507 212.8299
FAX: +507 212.8150
I am interested in the origins of adaptive variation, the genetic basis of mating behavior, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape genetic variation in natural populations.
Much recent research focuses on the genetic and developmental basis of wing pattern variation in Heliconius butterflies. Heliconius is a species-rich group of tropical butterflies characterized by dramatic variation in their vividly colored wing patterns and is an ideal system to study the interface between genomes, development, and the ecology and evolution of functional diversity. Our research group exploits this natural diversity, growing genomic resources, and emerging genomic technologies to directly explore how adaptive phenotypes evolve and influence the architecture of genomic variation within natural populations. Remarkably, few genomic intervals control much of the color pattern variation across the genus. These intervals behave as genomic “hotspots” of evolution that regulate both convergent and highly divergent wing pattern variation within and between species. Over the past year, we have positionally cloned these “hotspots” and are using a combination of approaches to identify the molecular changes that cause phenotypic variation, link them to the gene networks responsible for the formation of wing patterns, and gain a functional understanding of how they work to modulate pattern variation.
Education and Degrees
University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii
University College London
Quek, S-P, B. A. Counterman, P. Albuquerque de Moura, M. Z. Cardoso, C. R. Marshall, W. O. McMillan, and M. R. Kronforst. (2010) Divergent histories of convergent butterflies: dissecting co-mimetic radiations in Heliconius. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 16: 7365-7370.
Counterman, B. A., F. Araujo-Perez, H. Hines, S. Baxter, C. Morrison, D. Lindstrom, R. Papa, L. Ferguson, M. Joron, R. Ffrench-Constant, G. Halder, C. Smith, D. Nielsen, R. Chen, J. Mallet, R. Reed, C. Jiggins, and W. O. McMillan. (2010) Genomic Hotspots of Mimicry: the population genetics of two warning color loci in Heliconius erato. PLoS Genetics 6(2): e1000796.
Joron, M., R. Papa, M. Beltrán, J. Mavárez, R. Papa, E. Bermingham, J. Mallet, W. O. McMillan and C. D. Jiggins. (2006) A conserved supergene locus controls color pattern convergence and divergence in Heliconius butterflies. PLoS Biology 4(10): e303.
Kapan, D., N. Flanagan, A. Tobler, R. Papa, R. Reed, M. Ramirez, J. Patricia, K. Maldonado, L. Martinez, C. Ritschoff, D. G. Heckel and W. O. McMillan. (2006) Localization of Müllerian mimicry genes on a dense linkage map of Heliconius erato. Genetics 173: 735–757.
Reed, R. D., W. O. McMillan, and L. M. Nagy. (2008) Gene expression underlying adaptive variation in Heliconius wing patterns: non-modular regulation of overlapping cinnabar and vermilion patterns. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 275: 37-45.
McMillan, W. O., A. Monteiro, and D. Kapan. (2002) Evolution and development on the wing. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 17: 125-133.