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The Relationship between Diet Breadth and Geographic  Range Size in the Butterfly Subfamily Nymphalinae: A  Study of Global Scale
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6379-7905
2011 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 6, no 1, e16057- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The ‘‘oscillation hypothesis’’ has been proposed as a general explanation for the exceptional diversification of herbivorous insect species. The hypothesis states that speciation rates are elevated through repeated correlated changes – oscillations – in degree of host plant specificity and geographic range. The aim of this study is to test one of the predictions from the oscillation hypothesis: a positive correlation between diet breadth (number of host plants used) and geographic range size, using the globally distributed butterfly subfamily Nymphalinae. Data on diet breadth and global geographic range were collected for 182 Nymphalinae butterflies species and the size of the geographic range was measured using a GIS. We tested both diet breadth and geographic range size for phylogenetic signal to see if species are independent of each other with respect to these characters. As this test gave inconclusive results, data was analysed both using cross-species comparisons and taking phylogeny into account using generalised estimating equations as applied in the APE package in R. Irrespective of which method was used, we found a significant positive correlation between diet breadth and geographic range size. These results are consistent for two different measures of diet breadth and removal of outliers. We conclude that the global range sizes of Nymphalinae butterflies are correlated to diet breadth. That is, butterflies that feed on a large number of host plants tend to have larger geographic ranges than do butterflies that feed on fewer plants. These results lend support for an important step in the oscillation hypothesis of plant-driven diversification, in that it can provide the necessary fuel for future population fragmentation and speciation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 6, no 1, e16057- p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-51796DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016057ISI: 000286511200032OAI: diva2:386065
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2011-01-12 Created: 2011-01-12 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The plasticity and geography of host use and the diversification of butterflies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The plasticity and geography of host use and the diversification of butterflies
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Our world is changing rapidly and factors like urbanisation, changed agricultural practices and climate change are causing losses in butterfly diversity. It is therefore of importance to understand the source of their diversity. Given the remarkable diversity of herbivorous insects compared to their non-herbivorous sister groups, changes in host use have been implicated as a promoter of speciation. This thesis looks at geographical aspects of host range evolution and the plasticity of host use. We show that butterflies in the subfamily Nymphalinae that feed on a wide range of host plants have larger geographic ranges than species with narrower host ranges. Although tropical butterflies appear to be more specialised than temperate species, this effect is lost when controlling for the differences in geographic range. Geographic variation in host plant use within Polygonia faunus, related to morphologically distinct subspecies, did not show any genetic differentiation. This suggests that the observed variation in host plant use is a plastic response to environmental differences. Reconstructing host use for the Polygonia-Nymphalis and Vanessa group shows that plasticity is also important for understanding host use at the level of butterfly genera. Using unequal transition costs and including larval feeding ability revealed that frequent colonisations of the same plant genus can often be explained by non-independent processes, such as multiple partial losses of host use, recolonisation of ancestral hosts, and parallel colonisations following a preadaptation for host use. These processes are further reflected in the conservative use of host plant orders within the butterfly family Nymphalidae. Few taxa feed on more than one host plant order, and these expansions occur at the very tips of the tree, which we argue is evidence of the transient nature of generalist host use. These insights improve our understanding of how host range evolution may promote diversification.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2012. 36 p.
Nymphalidae, host range, phylogeny, distribution, latitude, phylogeography, local specialisation, colonisation, host shift, polyphagy, speciation, diversification
National Category
Research subject
Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-69573 (URN)978-91-7447-440-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-03-02, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16 B, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
At the time of the doctoral defence,the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted; Papers 4 and 5: ManuscriptsAvailable from: 2012-02-08 Created: 2012-01-13 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved

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