News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)
A new phylogenomic tree of butterflies has been published, which has a 35-fold increase in genetic data and three times as many classification units as previous studies. The new tree is based on a dataset of 352 genetic markers from 207 butterfly species that represent 98 percent of the butterflies. It is estimated there is a total of 18,800 butterfly species, in contrast to only 5,450 mammalian species. Butterflies offer key insights into community ecology, how species originate and evolve, climate change and interactions between plants and insects. Despite this, a comprehensive map of how butterflies are related to each other has been lacking, until now.
Roger Vila and Gerard Talavera, researchers of the IBE (CSIC-UPF), explain that this research has improved the understanding of the relationships between different butterflies and proposes some name changes since a large number of tribes and even subfamilies are not natural groups.
The fact that some butterflies feed on different host plants suggests that butterflies and plants may have evolved together. Others have developed mutually beneficial relationships with ants, who provide protection from predators in exchange for sugary nectar.
The new tree also supports the idea that butterflies date back more than 100 million years. But most of the lineages that exist today originated after the mass extinction event that killed off non-avian dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. _RF/PRBB
Espeland, M., et.al. A Comprehensive and Dated Phylogenomic Analysis of Butterflies, Current Biology, 2018
At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree (IBE news)
Download: Butterfly phylogenomic tree (jpeg)