UV light reveals new butterfly species

UV light reveals new butterfly species

News from IBE

Researchers from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE) has discovered that the scarce swallowtail is split in two species with males very different under ultraviolet light. The female butterflies, able to see beyond the visible, probably identify and choose the males of their species according to this colour difference. The taxonomic confusion is due to a genetic transfer between both species mediated by the bacterium Wolbachia. These two species could shed light on how parasitic bacteria affect the evolution of insects.

The Swallowtail butterflies are some of the biggest and most beautiful insects in Europe. Although they have attracted the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts for centuries, the status of the Southern Scarce Swallowtail has remained contentious, either as a subspecies of the Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) or as a different species (Iphiclides feisthamelii). While subtle morphological differences among the two have been documented, the first genetic studies showed no clear differentiation. Now a new study, led by Roger Vila, researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF) of Barcelona, confirms that the Southern Scarce Swallowtail butterfly and the Scarce Swallowtail are different species.


Gaunet, A.*, Dincă, V.*, Dapporto, L.*, Montagud, S., Vodă, R., Schär, S., Badiane, A., Font, E. & Vila, R. (2019) Two consecutive Wolbachia-mediated mitochondrial introgressions obscure taxonomy in Palearctic swallowtail butterflies (Lepidoptera, Papilionidae). Zoologica Scripta (accepted) (*co-first authors).

More information:
IBE website