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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rapid diversification associated with ecological specialization in Neotropical Adelpha butterflies

  • Author(s): Ebel, ER
  • Dacosta, JM
  • Sorenson, MD
  • Hill, RI
  • Briscoe, AD
  • Willmott, KR
  • Mullen, SP
  • et al.

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© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Rapid diversification is often associated with morphological or ecological adaptations that allow organisms to radiate into novel niches. Neotropical Adelpha butterflies, which comprise over 200 species and subspecies, are characterized by extraordinary breadth in host plant use and wing colour patterns compared to their closest relatives. To examine the relationship between phenotypic and species diversification, we reconstructed the phylogenetic history of Adelpha and its temperate sister genus Limenitis using genomewide restriction-site-associated DNA (RAD) sequencing. Despite a declining fraction of shared markers with increasing evolutionary distance, the RAD-Seq data consistently generated well-supported trees using a variety of phylogenetic methods. These well-resolved phylogenies allow the identification of an ecologically important relationship with a toxic host plant family, as well as the confirmation of widespread, convergent wing pattern mimicry throughout the genus. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that evolutionary innovations in both larvae and adults have permitted the colonization of novel host plants and fuelled adaptive diversification within this large butterfly radiation.

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