Evolution of butterflies

Photo ERIC ZAMORA/FLORIDA MUSEUM

A team of researchers created an evolutionary family tree for butterflies based on a large data set and estimated when moths and butterflies evolved key traits.

24.10.2019 · Life Sciences · Research Museum Alexander Koenig - Leibniz Institute for Animal Biodiversity · News · Research result

A new study examines these classic hypotheses by shining a light on the early history of Lepidoptera, the order that includes moths and butterflies. Using the largest-ever data set assembled for the group, an international team of researchers created an evolutionary family tree for Lepidoptera and used fossils to estimate when moths and butterflies evolved key traits.

The findings show that flowering plants did drive much of these insects' diversity. In a surprise twist, however, multiple moth lineages evolved "ears" millions of years before the existence of bats, previously credited with triggering moths' development of hearing organs.Their findings show that flowering plants did drive much of these insects' diversity. In a surprise twist, however, multiple moth lineages evolved "ears" millions of years before the existence of bats, previously credited with triggering moths' development of hearing organs.Their findings show that flowering plants did drive much of these insects' diversity. In a surprise twist, however, multiple moth lineages evolved "ears" millions of years before the existence of bats, previously credited with triggering moths' development of hearing organs.

The development of the proboscis, a coiled straw-like mouthpart that can suck up nectar and other fluids, helped boost the diversity of Lepidoptera. Here, a tiger longwing, Heliconius hecale, drinks from a flower.The development of the proboscis, a coiled straw-like mouthpart that can suck up nectar and other fluids, helped boost the diversity of Lepidoptera. Here, a tiger longwing, Heliconius hecale, drinks from a flower.The development of the proboscis, a coiled straw-like mouthpart that can suck up nectar and other fluids, helped boost the diversity of Lepidoptera. Here, a tiger longwing, Heliconius hecale, drinks from a flower. Copyright: Eric Zamora/Florida Museum

Original publication

Phylogenomics reveals the evolutionary timing and pattern of butterflies and moths

Akito Y. Kawahara, David Plotkin, Marianne Espeland, Karen Meusemann, Emmanuel F. A. Toussaint, Alexander Donath, France Gimnich, Paul B. Frandsen, Andreas Zwick, Mario dos Reis, Jesse R. Barber, Ralph S. Peters, Shanlin Liu, Xin Zhou, Christoph Mayer, Lars Podsiadlowski, Caroline Storer, Jayne E. Yack, Bernhard Misof, Jesse W. Breinholt.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Oct 2019, 201907847; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907847116

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