Prof. David Lohman: A global phylogeny of butterflies illuminates their evolutionary history, ancestral hosts, and biogeographic origins
The City College of New York, USA
Monday 10th July, 9:00 am, Congress Hall
Butterflies are perhaps the most charismatic and intensely studied of all insects, serving as model and muse for dozens of seminal biodiversity studies. By leveraging methodological advances and a global network of lepidopterist colleagues, we inferred a robust molecular phylogeny of butterflies with ~2300 species from ca. 92% of all described butterfly genera using 391 protein-coding loci. Phylogenomic analyses produced statistically robust and congruent results that resolved previously controversial relationships. We dated the origin of butterflies to the Late Cretaceous, ~100 million years ago (Ma), and most extant family crown groups originated before the K/Pg extinction event. We aggregated larval host datasets and global distribution records from hundreds of sources and found that butterflies likely first fed on Fabaceae and originated in what is now the Americas. After most extant lineages dispersed to the Eastern Hemisphere across the Bering Land Bridge, they spread throughout the equatorial tropics in the Early Cenozoic. We examined several predictions regarding butterfly-plant coevolution and found that butterfly diversification followed radiation of their host plants, suggesting that plants were a template on which butterflies diversified. Grass-feeding skippers (Hesperiidae) and satyrs (Nymphalide: Satyrinae) comprise nearly a quarter of all species and diversified rapidly during the Oligocene and Miocene when global grasslands expanded. This phylogenomic study provides an important scaffold for future comparative analyses of butterflies.
Dr. Marianne Elias: The drivers of biodiversity in the Neotropics: insights from mimetic clearwing butterflies
Institute of Systematics, Evolution, Biodiversity, Paris, France
Thursday 13th July, 9:00 am, Congress Hall
Interspecific interactions represent a strong driver of biodiversity structure and evolution, yet their impact at the macroecological and macroevolutionary scale is rarely evaluated. Intra-guild mutualistic interactions, where individuals from different species benefit from coexisting with each other, are particularly overlooked. Müllerian mimicry, where defended, aposematic species locally converge on a common warning signal, is a relevant system to examine the macroecological and macroevolutionary consequences of mutualistic interactions, because species that interact mutualistically have similar warning signals, thereby making mutualistic interactions relatively straightforward to characterize. The diverse Neotropical butterfly tribe Ithomiini (Nymphalidae) numerically dominates butterfly communities and is the largest clade of mimetic butterflies. One intriguing feature of Ithomiini, also known as clearwing butterflies, is that most species have partially transparent wings, which raises the question of the drivers of the evolution of such a trait in the context of aposematism and mimicry. Here I present the results of over 15 years of collaborative research on Ithomiini, which highlight that 1) mutualistic Müllerian mimicry is a strong driver of community structure, 2) mimicry has driven an evolutionary association between warning colour pattern and multiple facets of the ecological niche of species, both at the local and global scales, which 3) may have fueled the diversification of Ithomiini. I also present recent results on the evolution of transparent wing patterns in the context of aposematism and mimicry, which show that transparency is involved in both crypsis and mimicry, and that clearwing ithomiine species likely make the best of both worlds.
Dr. Hugo A. Benítez: Extreme adaptations, phenotype, geometry and other stories based on Lepidoptera
Universidad Catolica del Maule, Talca, Chile
Wednesday 12th July, 9:00 am, Congress Hall
Adaptation is a central concept of evolutionary biology that explains why organisms adapt to their environment under natural selection. An adaptation could be defined as a novel trait or behavior that appears in an organism and is preserved by natural selection. Limits to adaptation are a crucial aspect of evolutionary responses to any extreme environment which nowadays are influenced by anthropogenetic change. Adaptive patterns in butterflies can be both genetic and phenotypic, the latter occurring through a complex network of interactions between the genotype and the environment, and to understand these relationships, the combination of genetic, genomic, and phenotypic methodologies are completely essential which will allow us to elucidate the evolutionary origins of those adaptation in detail. This conference aims to illustrate some research made in South America where the adaptive patterns organisms are taken to extremes, a first approach in order to identify the possible mechanisms used by Vanessa carye, a migratory butterfly with routes from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego, traveling almost all natural biomes with the exception of Antarctica, and some other approaches taken to the limits of altitude (5200m asl) in Andean butterflies, where the study of adaptations to extreme climates is combined with the use of methodological tools to evaluate adaptations from a morphological component using geometric morphometrics to a molecular view using population genetics.
Dr. Ondřej Sedláček: One wingbeat at a time: Restoring butterfly habitats and populations in the Czech Republic
Ochrana fauny České republiky (an NGO taking care of regional biodiversity, including butterflies and their habitats); & Charles University, Prague, Czechia
Monday 10th July, 17:45, Congress Hall
Butterflies represent a well-studied group of animals in the Czech Republic, thanks to a wide entomological community comprising both professionals and amateurs. Comparing recent data on species distribution with data from the 20th Century reveals a rapid decline in many species. A number of formerly common and widespread species teeter on the edge of extinction, if not already extinct. Regional species loss and homogenization of butterfly communities are primarily caused by land-use abandonment and the intensification of agriculture and forestry. Using evidence-based case studies, this presentation summarizes conservation actions in the Czech Republic that have led to the restoration of butterfly habitats, including hotspots, as well as common landscapes and (sub)urban areas, over the past decades. These actions involve the emulation of traditional farming and forestry practices such as mosaic mowing, extensive pastures, pollarding, and coppicing, as well as the implementation of novel management techniques such as disturbance regimes utilizing fire, off-road vehicles, and motorbikes, and rewilding efforts involving the reintroduction of European bison and de-domesticated forms of cattle and horses. Additionally, several examples of butterfly reintroductions into restored habitats, which have now become suitable for the return of extirpated species, will be presented. By these steps, we aim to reverse the decline of butterfly populations and restore their habitats, one wingbeat at a time.