Theses and Dissertations


Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hoffmann, Federico G.

Committee Member

Dapper, Amy

Committee Member

Gout, Jean Francois

Committee Member

Perkins, Andy D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Campus Access Only


Computational Biology

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology


The butterfly genus Heliconius has an unusually long lifespan (six to eight months compared to only several weeks) and the unique ability to feed on pollen. The additional amino acids provided by a pollen diet seem intrinsically tied to longer lifespan in Heliconius. Because of these traits, Heliconius may be a valuable model species for future aging studies. As a preliminary analysis, we investigated differences in gene evolution between Heliconius and seven short-lived butterflies. We observed that the Heliconius genes had significant differences in evolutionary rates, in the direction of selection, and in the amounts of site-specific positive selection compared to the short-lived butterflies. We also investigated functional differences in gene complements between the Heliconius and short-lived butterflies but found only small differences. With this research, we present exploratory evidence supporting differences in gene evolution of the Heliconius to establish targets for future analysis of Heliconius as models for aging.