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CRISPR experiment shows how butterflies get their coloring

As far as nature’s animal canvases go, the butterfly wing must rank somewhere near the top—maybe above the goldfish, but below the peacock. The level of complexity in the patterns and colors of the insects’ wings initially led scientists to believe that many genes must be interacting to produce the end result, but two new studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences using the CRISPR gene-editing technique show that just two genes do most of the work. The first, WntA, creates patterns and borders, and determines outlines. Disabling it causes colors to bleed together and dull. The second gene, optix, is responsible for creating the color within those border, and disabling it can cause the wings to turn completely black and eliminate patterns all together, Nature reports.

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