Chris_officeProfessor of Evolutionary Biology

Email:c.jiggins [at] 

Director of Studies and Fellow at St John’s College .

Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society



I have been working with Heliconius butterflies since 1993, when I started my PhD with Jim Mallet in University College London. My original interests were in the ecology of tropical insects, and during my PhD work I studied a hybrid zone in Ecuador between two incipient species (Heliconius himera and H. erato). After a brief respite as a conservation biologist in Ecuador, I then continued with a Postdoc position, during which I worked mainly in Panama. This led us to the discovery that Heliconius melpomene and H. cydno use wing patterns as cues during mating, leading to reproductive isolation – an example of an ecological trait that contributes to assortative mating and a phenomenon that is now commonly termed a ‘magic trait’.

I began to work on the genetic basis of wing patterns in about 2001, conducting crossing experiments in Panama with races of H. melpomene. Over the subsequent years this led to the cloning and identification of wing pattern genes such as optix – a large collaborative effort involving many researchers from across the community.

Currently my group works on many aspects of Heliconius evolutionary biology, including evolutionary developmental biology of wing patterning, the genetic and behavioural basis for speciation, the sensory ecology of mimicry and analysis of the Heliconius melpomene genome.


I am Director of Studies at St John’s College for Natural Sciences (Biological), where I run admissions and take care of academic care for around 60 undergraduates. I am working on various admissions initiatives to increase the diversity of applicants to the college from different backgrounds.

I supervise students for a number of course including IA Evolution and Behaviour, IB Animal Biology, IB Ecology
In the Department of Zoology I teach on two third year (Part II) modules: L5 Evolution Development and Animal Diversity and M5 Behaviour. I also teach on the IB Ecology Field trip to Juniper Hall in Surrey.


  • 2014-present Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of Cambridge
  • 2010-2014 Reader, University of Cambridge
  • 2006-2010 University Lecturer and Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Cambridge
  • 2003-2006 Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
  • 2000-2002 Tupper Fellowship at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • 1998-2000 Postdoc with Jim Mallet (mostly based at STRI)
  • 1998 Organised the Sozoranga Forest Project (forest conservation in SE Ecuador)
  • 1993-1996 PhD University College London supervised by Jim Mallet. ‘The ecology and genetics of speciation in Heliconius butterflies
  • 1990-1993 BA(Hons) Zoology, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Recent Publications

Merrill, R. M. et al. The diversification of Heliconius butterflies: What have we learned in 150 years? J. Evol. Biol. (2015). doi:10.1111/jeb.12672
Harpel, D., Cullen, D. A., Ott, S. R., Jiggins, C. D. & Walters, J. R. Pollen feeding proteomics: Salivary proteins of the passion flower butterfly, Heliconius melpomene. Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol. 63, 7–13 (2015).
Sánchez, A. P. et al. An introgressed wing pattern acts as a mating cue. Evolution (2015). doi:10.1111/evo.12679
Pardo-Diaz, C., Salazar, C. & Jiggins, C. D. Towards the identification of the loci of adaptive evolution. Methods Ecol Evol n/a–n/a (2015). doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12324
Kozak, K. M. et al. Multilocus Species Trees Show the Recent Adaptive Radiation of the Mimetic Heliconius Butterflies. Syst Biol syv007 (2015). doi:10.1093/sysbio/syv007
Harpel, D., Cullen, D. A., Ott, S. R., Jiggins, C. D. & Walters, J. R. Pollen feeding proteomics: salivary proteins of the passion flower butterfly, Heliconius melpomene. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2015). doi:10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.04.004
Hornett, E. A. et al. The Evolution of Sex Ratio Distorter Suppression Affects a 25 cM Genomic Region in the Butterfly Hypolimnas bolina. PLoS Genet 10, e1004822 (2014).
Jiggins, C. & Peichel, C. Speciation Genetics and Genomics. (2014). at <>
Welch, J. J. & Jiggins, C. D. Standing and flowing: the complex origins of adaptive variation. Mol Ecol 23, 3935–3937 (2014).
Chazot, N. et al. Mutualistic mimicry and filtering by altitude shape the structure of Andean butterfly communities. The American Naturalist 183, 26–39 (2014).