Marcus Kronforst

Research Summary
We study adaptation and speciation, with a special focus on the genetic basis of wing pattern mimicry in butterflies. Other topics of study in the lab include mate preference evolution in butterflies, monarch butterfly migration, and poison dart frog color patterning. Our work is highly integrative, spanning genomics, population genetics, molecular and developmental biology, animal behavior, and field work.
adaptation, speciation, evolutionary genomics, population genetics
  • University of Miami, Miami, Florida, B.S. Biology 1998
  • University of Texas, Austin, Texas, Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution & Behavior 2004
  • University of Texas, Austin, Texas, post-doc Evolutionary Biology 2007
  • Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bauer Fellow Systems Biology 2012
Awards & Honors
  • 1997 - Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society University of Miami
  • 1998 - Summa cum laude University of Miami
  • 2002 - NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
  • 2007 - 2012 Bauer Fellows Program Harvard University
  • 2012 - 2017 Neubauer Family Endowed Assistant Professorship University of Chicago
  • 2015 - 2020 Pew Biomedical Scholar University of Chicago
  • 2015 - NSF CAREER Award University of Chicago
  • 2016 - Biological Sciences Division Distinguished Investigator Award University of Chicago
  1. Márquez R, Linderoth TP, Mejía-Vargas D, Nielsen R, Amézquita A, Kronforst MR. Divergence, gene flow, and the origin of leapfrog geographic distributions: The history of colour pattern variation in Phyllobates poison-dart frogs. Mol Ecol. 2020 Aug 19. View in: PubMed

  2. Tenger-Trolander A, Kronforst MR. Migration behaviour of commercial monarchs reared outdoors and wild-derived monarchs reared indoors. Proc Biol Sci. 2020 08 12; 287(1932):20201326. View in: PubMed

  3. Massardo D, VanKuren NW, Nallu S, Ramos RR, Ribeiro PG, Silva-Brandão KL, Brandão MM, Lion MB, Freitas AVL, Cardoso MZ, Kronforst MR. The roles of hybridization and habitat fragmentation in the evolution of Brazil's enigmatic longwing butterflies, Heliconius nattereri and H. hermathena. BMC Biol. 2020 07 03; 18(1):84. View in: PubMed

  4. Talla V, Pierce AA, Adams KL, de Man TJB, Nallu S, Villablanca FX, Kronforst MR, de Roode JC. Genomic evidence for gene flow between monarchs with divergent migratory phenotypes and flight performance. Mol Ecol. 2020 07; 29(14):2567-2582. View in: PubMed

  5. Mullen SP, VanKuren NW, Zhang W, Nallu S, Kristiansen EB, Wuyun Q, Liu K, Hill RI, Briscoe AD, Kronforst MR. Disentangling Population History and Character Evolution among Hybridizing Lineages. Mol Biol Evol. 2020 05 01; 37(5):1295-1305. View in: PubMed

  6. Palmer DH, Kronforst MR. A shared genetic basis of mimicry across swallowtail butterflies points to ancestral co-option of doublesex. Nat Commun. 2020 01 03; 11(1):6. View in: PubMed

  7. Edelman NB, Frandsen PB, Miyagi M, Clavijo B, Davey J, Dikow RB, García-Accinelli G, Van Belleghem SM, Patterson N, Neafsey DE, Challis R, Kumar S, Moreira GRP, Salazar C, Chouteau M, Counterman BA, Papa R, Blaxter M, Reed RD, Dasmahapatra KK, Kronforst M, Joron M, Jiggins CD, McMillan WO, Di Palma F, Blumberg AJ, Wakeley J, Jaffe D, Mallet J. Genomic architecture and introgression shape a butterfly radiation. Science. 2019 11 01; 366(6465):594-599. View in: PubMed

  8. Zhang W, Leon-Ricardo BX, van Schooten B, Van Belleghem SM, Counterman BA, McMillan WO, Kronforst MR, Papa R. Comparative Transcriptomics Provides Insights into Reticulate and Adaptive Evolution of a Butterfly Radiation. Genome Biol Evol. 2019 10 01; 11(10):2963-2975. View in: PubMed

  9. VanKuren NW, Massardo D, Nallu S, Kronforst MR. Butterfly Mimicry Polymorphisms Highlight Phylogenetic Limits of Gene Reuse in the Evolution of Diverse Adaptations. Mol Biol Evol. 2019 12 01; 36(12):2842-2853. View in: PubMed

  10. Green DA, Kronforst MR. Monarch butterflies use an environmentally sensitive, internal timer to control overwintering dynamics. Mol Ecol. 2019 08; 28(16):3642-3655. View in: PubMed

  11. Tenger-Trolander A, Lu W, Noyes M, Kronforst MR. Contemporary loss of migration in monarch butterflies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 07 16; 116(29):14671-14676. View in: PubMed

  12. Southcott L, Kronforst MR. Female mate choice is a reproductive isolating barrier in Heliconius butterflies. Ethology. 2018 Dec; 124(12):862-869. View in: PubMed

  13. Rogers RL, Zhou L, Chu C, Márquez R, Corl A, Linderoth T, Freeborn L, MacManes MD, Xiong Z, Zheng J, Guo C, Xun X, Kronforst MR, Summers K, Wu Y, Yang H, Richards-Zawacki CL, Zhang G, Nielsen R. Genomic Takeover by Transposable Elements in the Strawberry Poison Frog. Mol Biol Evol. 2018 12 01; 35(12):2913-2927. View in: PubMed

  14. Westerman EL, VanKuren NW, Massardo D, Tenger-Trolander A, Zhang W, Hill RI, Perry M, Bayala E, Barr K, Chamberlain N, Douglas TE, Buerkle N, Palmer SE, Kronforst MR. Aristaless Controls Butterfly Wing Color Variation Used in Mimicry and Mate Choice. Curr Biol. 2018 11 05; 28(21):3469-3474.e4. View in: PubMed

  15. Palmer DH, Tan YQ, Finkbeiner SD, Briscoe AD, Monteiro A, Kronforst MR. Experimental field tests of Batesian mimicry in the swallowtail butterfly Papilio polytes. Ecol Evol. 2018 Aug; 8(15):7657-7666. View in: PubMed

  16. Nallu S, Hill JA, Don K, Sahagun C, Zhang W, Meslin C, Snell-Rood E, Clark NL, Morehouse NI, Bergelson J, Wheat CW, Kronforst MR. The molecular genetic basis of herbivory between butterflies and their host plants. Nat Ecol Evol. 2018 09; 2(9):1418-1427. View in: PubMed

  17. Schilling MP, Mullen SP, Kronforst M, Safran RJ, Nosil P, Feder JL, Gompert Z, Flaxman SM. Transitions from Single- to Multi-Locus Processes during Speciation with Gene Flow. Genes (Basel). 2018 May 24; 9(6). View in: PubMed

  18. Finkbeiner SD, Salazar PA, Nogales S, Rush CE, Briscoe AD, Hill RI, Kronforst MR, Willmott KR, Mullen SP. Frequency dependence shapes the adaptive landscape of imperfect Batesian mimicry. Proc Biol Sci. 2018 04 11; 285(1876). View in: PubMed

  19. Rossato DO, Boligon D, Fornel R, Kronforst MR, Gonçalves GL, Moreira GRP. Subtle variation in size and shape of the whole forewing and the red band among co-mimics revealed by geometric morphometric analysis in Heliconius butterflies. Ecol Evol. 2018 03; 8(6):3280-3295. View in: PubMed

  20. Westerman EL, Letchinger R, Tenger-Trolander A, Massardo D, Palmer D, Kronforst MR. Does male preference play a role in maintaining female limited polymorphism in a Batesian mimetic butterfly? Behav Processes. 2018 May; 150:47-58. View in: PubMed

  21. Zhang W, Westerman E, Nitzany E, Palmer S, Kronforst MR. Tracing the origin and evolution of supergene mimicry in butterflies. Nat Commun. 2017 11 07; 8(1):1269. View in: PubMed

  22. Mazo-Vargas A, Concha C, Livraghi L, Massardo D, Wallbank RWR, Zhang L, Papador JD, Martinez-Najera D, Jiggins CD, Kronforst MR, Breuker CJ, Reed RD, Patel NH, McMillan WO, Martin A. Macroevolutionary shifts of WntA function potentiate butterfly wing-pattern diversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 10 03; 114(40):10701-10706. View in: PubMed

  23. Southcott L, Kronforst MR. A neutral view of the evolving genomic architecture of speciation. Ecol Evol. 2017 08; 7(16):6358-6366. View in: PubMed

  24. Zhang W, Dasmahapatra KK, Mallet J, Moreira GR, Kronforst MR. Genome-wide introgression among distantly related Heliconius butterfly species. Genome Biol. 2016 Feb 27; 17:25. View in: PubMed

  25. Li X, Fan D, Zhang W, Liu G, Zhang L, Zhao L, Fang X, Chen L, Dong Y, Chen Y, Ding Y, Zhao R, Feng M, Zhu Y, Feng Y, Jiang X, Zhu D, Xiang H, Feng X, Li S, Wang J, Zhang G, Kronforst MR, Wang W. Outbred genome sequencing and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in butterflies. Nat Commun. 2015 Sep 10; 6:8212. View in: PubMed

  26. Palmer DH, Kronforst MR. Divergence and gene flow among Darwin's finches: A genome-wide view of adaptive radiation driven by interspecies allele sharing. Bioessays. 2015 Sep; 37(9):968-74. View in: PubMed

  27. Kronforst MR, Papa R. The functional basis of wing patterning in Heliconius butterflies: the molecules behind mimicry. Genetics. 2015 May; 200(1):1-19. View in: PubMed

  28. Kronforst MR. Exploring the molecular basis of monarch butterfly color pattern variation: a response to A. Hume's 'Myosin--a monarch of pigment transport?'. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2015 Mar; 28(2):127-30. View in: PubMed

  29. Pierce AA, Zalucki MP, Bangura M, Udawatta M, Kronforst MR, Altizer S, Haeger JF, de Roode JC. Serial founder effects and genetic differentiation during worldwide range expansion of monarch butterflies. Proc Biol Sci. 2014 12 22; 281(1797). View in: PubMed

  30. Massardo D, Fornel R, Kronforst M, Gonçalves GL, Moreira GR. Diversification of the silverspot butterflies (Nymphalidae) in the Neotropics inferred from multi-locus DNA sequences. Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2015 Jan; 82 Pt A:156-65. View in: PubMed

  31. Zhan S, Zhang W, Niitepõld K, Hsu J, Haeger JF, Zalucki MP, Altizer S, de Roode JC, Reppert SM, Kronforst MR. The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration. Nature. 2014 Oct 16; 514(7522):317-21. View in: PubMed

  32. Gallant JR, Imhoff VE, Martin A, Savage WK, Chamberlain NL, Pote BL, Peterson C, Smith GE, Evans B, Reed RD, Kronforst MR, Mullen SP. Ancient homology underlies adaptive mimetic diversity across butterflies. Nat Commun. 2014 Sep 08; 5:4817. View in: PubMed

  33. Arias CF, Salazar C, Rosales C, Kronforst MR, Linares M, Bermingham E, McMillan WO. Phylogeography of Heliconius cydno and its closest relatives: disentangling their origin and diversification. Mol Ecol. 2014 Aug; 23(16):4137-52. View in: PubMed

  34. Kunte K, Zhang W, Tenger-Trolander A, Palmer DH, Martin A, Reed RD, Mullen SP, Kronforst MR. doublesex is a mimicry supergene. Nature. 2014 Mar 13; 507(7491):229-32. View in: PubMed

  35. Kronforst MR, Hansen ME, Crawford NG, Gallant JR, Zhang W, Kulathinal RJ, Kapan DD, Mullen SP. Hybridization reveals the evolving genomic architecture of speciation. Cell Rep. 2013 Nov 14; 5(3):666-77. View in: PubMed

  36. Smith J, Kronforst MR. Do Heliconius butterfly species exchange mimicry alleles? Biol Lett. 2013 Aug 23; 9(4):20130503. View in: PubMed

  37. Zhang W, Kunte K, Kronforst MR. Genome-wide characterization of adaptation and speciation in tiger swallowtail butterflies using de novo transcriptome assemblies. Genome Biol Evol. 2013; 5(6):1233-45. View in: PubMed

  38. Hill RI, Gilbert LE, Kronforst MR. Cryptic genetic and wing pattern diversity in a mimetic Heliconius butterfly. Mol Ecol. 2013 May; 22(10):2760-70. View in: PubMed

  39. Martin A, Papa R, Nadeau NJ, Hill RI, Counterman BA, Halder G, Jiggins CD, Kronforst MR, Long AD, McMillan WO, Reed RD. Diversification of complex butterfly wing patterns by repeated regulatory evolution of a Wnt ligand. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 31; 109(31):12632-7. View in: PubMed

  40. Kronforst MR. Mimetic butterflies introgress to impress. PLoS Genet. 2012; 8(6):e1002802. View in: PubMed

  41. Kronforst MR, Barsh GS, Kopp A, Mallet J, Monteiro A, Mullen SP, Protas M, Rosenblum EB, Schneider CJ, Hoekstra HE. Unraveling the thread of nature's tapestry: the genetics of diversity and convergence in animal pigmentation. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2012 Jul; 25(4):411-33. View in: PubMed

  42. Hines HM, Counterman BA, Papa R, Albuquerque de Moura P, Cardoso MZ, Linares M, Mallet J, Reed RD, Jiggins CD, Kronforst MR, McMillan WO. Wing patterning gene redefines the mimetic history of Heliconius butterflies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 06; 108(49):19666-71. View in: PubMed

  43. Kunte K, Shea C, Aardema ML, Scriber JM, Juenger TE, Gilbert LE, Kronforst MR. Sex chromosome mosaicism and hybrid speciation among tiger swallowtail butterflies. PLoS Genet. 2011 Sep; 7(9):e1002274. View in: PubMed

  44. Reed RD, Papa R, Martin A, Hines HM, Counterman BA, Pardo-Diaz C, Jiggins CD, Chamberlain NL, Kronforst MR, Chen R, Halder G, Nijhout HF, McMillan WO. optix drives the repeated convergent evolution of butterfly wing pattern mimicry. Science. 2011 Aug 26; 333(6046):1137-41. View in: PubMed

  45. Douglas TE, Kronforst MR, Queller DC, Strassmann JE. Genetic diversity in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum: population differentiation and cryptic species. Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Sep; 60(3):455-62. View in: PubMed

  46. Merrill RM, Gompert Z, Dembeck LM, Kronforst MR, McMillan WO, Jiggins CD. Mate preference across the speciation continuum in a clade of mimetic butterflies. Evolution. 2011 May; 65(5):1489-500. View in: PubMed

  47. Chamberlain NL, Hill RI, Baxter SW, Jiggins CD, Kronforst MR. Comparative population genetics of a mimicry locus among hybridizing Heliconius butterfly species. Heredity (Edinb). 2011 Sep; 107(3):200-4. View in: PubMed

  48. de Moura PA, Quek SP, Cardoso MZ, Kronforst MR. Comparative population genetics of mimetic Heliconius butterflies in an endangered habitat; Brazil's Atlantic Forest. BMC Genet. 2011 Jan 20; 12:9. View in: PubMed

  49. Quek SP, Counterman BA, Albuquerque de Moura P, Cardoso MZ, Marshall CR, McMillan WO, Kronforst MR. Dissecting comimetic radiations in Heliconius reveals divergent histories of convergent butterflies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 20; 107(16):7365-70. View in: PubMed

  50. Baxter SW, Nadeau NJ, Maroja LS, Wilkinson P, Counterman BA, Dawson A, Beltran M, Perez-Espona S, Chamberlain N, Ferguson L, Clark R, Davidson C, Glithero R, Mallet J, McMillan WO, Kronforst M, Joron M, Ffrench-Constant RH, Jiggins CD. Genomic hotspots for adaptation: the population genetics of Müllerian mimicry in the Heliconius melpomene clade. PLoS Genet. 2010 Feb 05; 6(2):e1000794. View in: PubMed

  51. Mehdiabadi NJ, Kronforst MR, Queller DC, Strassmann JE. Phylogeography and sexual macrocyst formation in the social amoeba Dictyostelium giganteum. BMC Evol Biol. 2010 Jan 20; 10:17. View in: PubMed

  52. Chamberlain NL, Hill RI, Kapan DD, Gilbert LE, Kronforst MR. Polymorphic butterfly reveals the missing link in ecological speciation. Science. 2009 Nov 06; 326(5954):847-50. View in: PubMed

  53. Mehdiabadi NJ, Kronforst MR, Queller DC, Strassmann JE. Phylogeny, reproductive isolation and kin recognition in the social amoeba Dictyostelium purpureum. Evolution. 2009 Feb; 63(2):542-8. View in: PubMed

  54. Salazar C, Jiggins CD, Taylor JE, Kronforst MR, Linares M. Gene flow and the genealogical history of Heliconius heurippa. BMC Evol Biol. 2008 May 02; 8:132. View in: PubMed

  55. Kronforst MR, Gilley DC, Strassmann JE, Queller DC. DNA methylation is widespread across social Hymenoptera. Curr Biol. 2008 Apr 08; 18(7):R287-8. View in: PubMed

  56. Kronforst MR. Gene flow persists millions of years after speciation in Heliconius butterflies. BMC Evol Biol. 2008 Mar 27; 8:98. View in: PubMed

  57. Kronforst MR, Gilbert LE. The population genetics of mimetic diversity in Heliconius butterflies. Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Mar 07; 275(1634):493-500. View in: PubMed

  58. Kronforst MR, Salazar C, Linares M, Gilbert LE. No genomic mosaicism in a putative hybrid butterfly species. Proc Biol Sci. 2007 May 22; 274(1615):1255-64. View in: PubMed

  59. Kronforst MR, Young LG, Gilbert LE. Reinforcement of mate preference among hybridizing Heliconius butterflies. J Evol Biol. 2007 Jan; 20(1):278-85. View in: PubMed

  60. Kronforst MR, Folgarait PJ, Patrock RJ, Gilbert LE. Genetic differentiation between body size biotypes of the parasitoid fly Pseudacteon obtusus (Diptera: Phoridae). Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Jun; 43(3):1178-84. View in: PubMed

  61. Kronforst MR, Young LG, Blume LM, Gilbert LE. Multilocus analyses of admixture and introgression among hybridizing Heliconius butterflies. Evolution. 2006 Jun; 60(6):1254-68. View in: PubMed

  62. Kronforst MR, Kapan DD, Gilbert LE. Parallel genetic architecture of parallel adaptive radiations in mimetic Heliconius butterflies. Genetics. 2006 Sep; 174(1):535-9. View in: PubMed

  63. Kronforst MR, Young LG, Kapan DD, McNeely C, O'Neill RJ, Gilbert LE. Linkage of butterfly mate preference and wing color preference cue at the genomic location of wingless. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Apr 25; 103(17):6575-80. View in: PubMed

  64. Kronforst MR, Fleming TH. Lack of genetic differentiation among widely spaced subpopulations of a butterfly with home range behaviour. Heredity (Edinb). 2001 Feb; 86(Pt 2):243-50. View in: PubMed

  65. Hill RI, Ganeshan M, Wourms L, Kronforst MR, Mullen SP, Savage WK. Effectiveness of DNA barcoding in Speyeria butterflies at small geographic scales. Diversity. 2018; 10:130.::::

  66. Southcott L, Kronforst MR. Female mate choice is a reproductive isolating barrier in Heliconius butterflies. Ethology. 2018; 124(12):862-869.::::

  67. Heliconius Genome Consortium. Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature. 2012; 487(7405):94-8.::::

  68. Pierce AA, Altizer S, Chamberlain NL, Kronforst MR, de Roode JC. Unraveling the mysteries of monarch migration and global dispersal through molecular genetic techniques. In: Monarchs in a Changing World: Biology and Conservation of an Iconic Insect. Cornell University Press. 2015.::::

  69. Barão KR, Gonçalves GL, Mielke OHH, Kronforst MR, Moreira GRP. Species boundaries in Philaethria butterflies: an integrative taxonomic analysis based on genitalia ultrastructure, wing geometric morphometrics, DNA sequences, and amplified fragment length polymorphisms. Zool J Linnean Soc. 2014; 170(4):690-709.::::

  70. Massardo D, Rosatto PA, Vargas HA, Kronforst MR, Moreira GRP. Development of a microsatellite library for the passion flower butterfly Dione moneta Hübner (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Heliconiinae). Conserv. Genet. Resour. 2012; 4(3):719-724.::::

  71. Kronforst, MR. Primers for the amplification of nuclear introns in Heliconius butterflies. Mol Ecol Notes. 2004; 5(1):158-162.::::