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Exploring a complex trait - the effect of larval feeding ability and unequal transition costs on the dynamics ofhost range evolution in two groups of related butterflies
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Department of Biodiversity informatics, Swedish Museum of Natural History.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Host plant use is a complex trait, better described as the combined outcome of many interrelated traits, such as female preference and larval ability to feed, grow and survive. The necessary co-adaptation of these traits would suggest that the host shifts should be difficult to accomplish. Still, even though a large-scale conservatism can be seen in most groups, frequent changes in host use are not uncommon, suggesting that under some circumstances adding new plants to the range might not be as difficult as one might expect. In a case study on two closelyr elated butterfly genera, we investigate the effect of unequal transition costs and of including available data on larval feeding ability as well as plants used in the field, and describe and compare the dynamics of host range evolution in these groups. We find that apparent independent colonisations are in many cases likely to be the result of non-independent processes such as multiple losses, recolonisation or parallel colonisations following some preadaptation. Host plants shifts and range expansions are likely important drivers of the exceptional diversity of herbivorousinsects. A better understanding of the dynamics of host range evolution will improve our understanding of the source of this diversity.

National Category
Ecology Evolutionary Biology Zoology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-71318OAI: diva2:484597
Available from: 2012-01-27 Created: 2012-01-27 Last updated: 2012-01-27
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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