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Deciphering the evolution of birdwing butterflies 150 years after Alfred Russel Wallace.


ABSTRACT: One hundred and fifty years after Alfred Wallace studied the geographical variation and species diversity of butterflies in the Indomalayan-Australasian Archipelago, the processes responsible for their biogeographical pattern remain equivocal. We analysed the macroevolutionary mechanisms accounting for the temporal and geographical diversification of the charismatic birdwing butterflies (Papilionidae), a major focus of Wallace's pioneering work. Bayesian phylogenetics and dating analyses of the birdwings were conducted using mitochondrial and nuclear genes. The combination of maximum likelihood analyses to estimate biogeographical history and diversification rates reveals that diversity-dependence processes drove the radiation of birdwings, and that speciation was often associated with founder-events colonizing new islands, especially in Wallacea. Palaeo-environment diversification models also suggest that high extinction rates occurred during periods of elevated sea level and global warming. We demonstrated a pattern of spatio-temporal habitat dynamics that continuously created or erased habitats suitable for birdwing biodiversity. Since birdwings were extinction-prone during the Miocene (warmer temperatures and elevated sea levels), the cooling period after the mid-Miocene climatic optimum fostered birdwing diversification due to the release of extinction. This also suggests that current global changes may represent a serious conservation threat to this flagship group.

SUBMITTER: Condamine FL 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4488763 | BioStudies | 2015-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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