Research Overview

How do differences between organisms arise and spread?

My research leverages genomic technologies to identify functionally important regions of the genome. Recent research has focused on the evolution of wing patterns in Heliconius butterflies. The enormous wing pattern variation in the group offers exceptional opportunities for genomic level studies designed to reveal how morphological variation is created through development and modified by natural selection within the context of an extraordinary adaptive radiation. I maintain an active molecular genetic lab, as well as experimental facilities for Heliconius culture and study.


Duke University, Zoology, B.Sc., 1985

University of Hawaii, Zoology, M.Sc., 1991

University of Hawaii, Zoology, Ph.D., 1994

University College London, Genetics, Postdoctoral, 1994-1997

Selected Publications

Hench, K., M. Helmkampf, W. O. McMillan, and O. Puebla.  (2022) Rapid radiation in a highly diverse marine environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119 (4): e2020457119.

Livraghi, L., J. J. Hanly, S. M. Van Bellghem, G. Montejo-Kovacevich, E. van Der Heijden, L. S. Loh, A. Ren, I. A. Warren, J. J. Lewis, C. Concha, L. Hebberecht, C. J. Wright, J. M. Walker, J. Foley, Z. H. Goldberg, H. Arenas-Castro, C. Salazar, M. Perry, R. Papa, A.  Martin, W. O. McMillan*, and C. D. Jiggins*.  (2021)  Cortex cis-regulatory switches establish scale colour identity and pattern diversity in Heliconius. Elife, 10:

Rossi, M., T. J. Thurman, A. E. Hausmann, S. H. Montgomery, R. Papa, C. D. Jiggins, W. O McMillan, and R. M. Merrill.  (2021)  Visual mate preference evolution during butterfly speciation is linked to neural processing genes.  Nature Communications, 11(1).1-10.

Thurman, T.*, E. Brodie*, E. Evans and W. O. McMillan. (2018) Facultative pupal mating in Heliconius erato: implications for mate choice, female preference and speciation. Ecology and Evolution, 8(3):1882-1889.

Mazo-Vargas, A., C. Concha, L. Livraghi, D. Massardo, W. R. Wallbank, L. Zhang, J. Papador, D. Martinez-Najera, C. D. Jiggins, M. R. Kronforst, C. J. Breuker, R. D. Reed, N. H Patel, W. O. McMillan and A. Martin. (2017) Macro-evolutionary shifts of WntA function potentiate butterfly wing pattern diversity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 114 (40):10701-10706.

Van Belleghem, S. M., P. Rastas, A. Papanicolaou, S. H. Martin, J. J. Hanly, J. Mallet, J. J. Lewis, H. M. Hines, M. Ruiz, G. R. P. Moreira, C. D. Jiggins, B. A. Counterman*, W. O. McMillan* and R. Papa*. (2017) Complex modular architecture around a simple toolkit of wing pattern genes. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1:0052.

Nadeau, N. J., C. Pardo-Diaz, A. Wibley, M. Supple, R. Wallbank, G. Wu, L. Maroja, L. Ferguson, H. Hines, C. Salazar, R. J. Tetley, S. Carl, R. ffrench-Constant, M. Joron, W. O. McMillan and C. D. Jiggins. (2016) The origins of a novel butterfly wing patterning gene from within a family of conserved cell cycle regulators. Nature 534(7605): 106–110. doi:10.1038/nature17961.

Supple, M. A., R. Papa, B. A. Counterman and W. Owen McMillan (2013) The genomics of an adaptive radiation– insights across the Heliconius speciation continuum. In Ecological Genomics, 249-271. Landry, C.R. and Aubin-Horth, N. (Eds). Springer.

Supple, M. A., H. M. Hines, K. K. Dasmahapatra, D. M. Nielsen, C. Lavoie, D. A. Ray, C. Salazar, W. O. McMillan*, and B. A. Counterman* (2013) Genomic architecture of adaptive color pattern divergence and convergence in Heliconius butterflies. Genome Research, 23:1248-1257.

Martin, A., R. Papa, N. J. Nadeau, R. I. Hill, B. A.Counterman, G. Halder, C. D. Jiggins, M. R. Kronforst, A Long, W. O. McMillan*, and R. D. Reed* (2012) Diversification of complex butterfly wing patterns by repeated regulator evolution of WntA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 109(31):12632-12637.

Puebla, O., Bermingham, E., and W. O. McMillan (2012) On the spatial scale of dispersal in coral reef fishes. Molecular Ecology, 21:5675-5688

The Heliconius Genome Consortium (2012) Heliconius butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of adaptive genetic variation among species. Nature, 487(7405): 94-98.

Hines, H. M., B. A. Counterman, R. Papa, P. Albuquerque de Moura, M. Z. Cardoso, M. Linares, J. Mallet, R. D. Reed, C. D. Jiggins, M. R. Kronforst, and W. O. McMillan (2011) Wing patterning gene redefines the mimetic history of Heliconius butterflies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 118(49): 19666-19671.

Reed, R. D.*, R. Papa*, A. Martin, H. M. Hines, B. A. Counterman, C. Pardo-Diaz, C. D. Jiggins, N. L. Chamberlain, M. R. Kronforst, R. Chen, G. Halder, H. F. Nijhout, and W. O. McMillan (2011) optixs drives repeated convergent evolution in butterfly color pattern mimicry. Science, 333: 1137-1141

Back to Top