It is often desirable but difficult to retrieve information on the mature phenotype of an immature tissue sample that has been subjected to gene expression analysis. This problem cannot be ignored when individual variation within a species is large. To circumvent this problem in the butterfly wing system, we developed a new surgical method for removing a single forewing from a pupa using Junonia orithya; the operated pupa was left to develop to an adult without eclosion. The removed right forewing was subjected to gene expression analysis, whereas the non-removed left forewing was examined for color patterns. As a test case, we focused on Distal-less (Dll), which likely plays an active role in inducing elemental patterns, including eyespots. The Dll expression level in forewings was paired with eyespot size data from the same individual. One third of the operated pupae survived and developed wing color patterns. Dll expression levels were significantly higher in males than in females, although male eyespots were smaller in size than female eyespots. Eyespot size data showed weak but significant correlations with the Dll expression level in females. These results demonstrate that a single-wing removal method was successfully applied to the butterfly wing system and suggest the weak and non-exclusive contribution of Dll to eyespot size determination in this butterfly. Our novel methodology for establishing correspondence between gene expression and phenotype can be applied to other candidate genes for color pattern development in butterflies. Conceptually similar methods may also be applicable in other developmental systems.
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Vol. 33 • No. 1