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ยป Laura Ferguson

Laura Ferguson


BA (Hons) Biology, Additional Honours History and Philosophy of Science, St Hildas College 2003
Msc(Res) University of Bristol 2005
DPhil Jesus College, Cambridge 2009

Role or Position

Junior Research Fellow

Email address

Academic Background

Following my DPhil I worked as a Post-doc with Dr Chris Jiggins (University of Cambridge) for 9 months

Undergraduate Teaching

BA Biology 3rd year Evolution and Development tutorials

Research Interests

The field of Evolutionary Genetics seeks to understand both the ‘why’, and the ‘how’ of the diversity of animal life. We ask whether particular features have advantage in the wild (‘why’), and which DNA mutations have occurred to generate this new feature (‘how’).

The wing patterns of Heliconius butterflies are a particularly suitable model for evolutionary genetics because they are diverse, highly adaptive, and genetic resources are available for making the link between the wild wing pattern and evolutionary mutations. Understanding novel wing patterning will help us understand how evolution operates.

I aim to to develop a major outstanding question: how predictable is evolution? The Heliconius are wing pattern mimics across the neotropics. Therefore I can use mimetic pairs to investigate whether evolution has targeted the same genes in both species, or whether two species use completely different genetic routes to achieve the same pattern. This work will contribute to emerging debates about whether the process of evolution is in some way constrained, and whether regions of the DNA which are hotspots of evolution share particular characteristics.

Publications include

Laura Ferguson, Chris Jiggins.
Both shared and divergent expression domains underlie a convergent mimetic phenotype in Heliconius butterflies. Evolution and Development 2009, 11:498-592

Laura Ferguson, Siu Fai Lee, Nicola Chamberlain, Nicola Nadeau, Mathieu Joron, Simon Baxter, Paul Wilkinson, Alexie Papanicolaou, Sujai Kumar, Thuan-Jin Kee, Richard Clark, Claire Davidson, Rebecca Glithero, Helen Beasley, Heiko Vogel, Richard ffrench-Constant, Chris Jiggins.
Characterization of a hotspot for mimicry: Assembly of a butterfly wing transcriptome to genomic sequence at the HmYb/Sb locus. Molecular Ecology 2009, 19: Special Supplement 1: 240-54

Laura Ferguson, Jack Green, Alison Surridge, Chris Jiggins.
Evolution of the insect yellow gene family. Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Jan;28(1):257-72

Laura Ferguson, Luana Majora, Chris Jiggins
Convergent, modular expression of ebony and tan in the mimetic wing patterns of Heliconius butterflies
Development, Genes and Evolution, In Press

Joron M, Frezal L, Jones RT, Chamberlain NL, Lee SF, Haag CR, Whibley A, Becuwe M, Baxter SW, Ferguson L, Wilkinson PA, Salazar C, Davidson C, Clark R, Quail MA, Beasley H, Glithero R, Lloyd C, Sims S, Jones MC, Rogers J, Jiggins CD, ffrench-Constant RH.
Chromosomal rearrangements maintain a polymorphic supergene controlling butterfly mimicry
Nature. 2011 Aug 14;477(7363):203-6


I have a son who was born in June 2010, and am therefore involved in various toddler groups and a regular visitor of the local parks! I'm also an active member of the local church, and really enjoy a good country walk when possible. I also enjoy arts and crafts, and take an interest in most aspects of design.


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