Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Cretaceous origin and repeated tertiary diversification of the redefined butterflies

Maria Heikkilä

Maria Heikkilä

Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, PO Box 17, Helsinki 00014, Finland

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,
Lauri Kaila

Lauri Kaila

Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, PO Box 17, Helsinki 00014, Finland

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,
Marko Mutanen

Marko Mutanen

Zoological Museum, Department of Biology, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, Oulu 90014, Finland

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,
Carlos Peña

Carlos Peña

Laboratory of Genetics, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku 20014, Finland

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and
Niklas Wahlberg

Niklas Wahlberg

Laboratory of Genetics, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku 20014, Finland

[email protected]

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Published:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.1430

    Although the taxonomy of the ca 18 000 species of butterflies and skippers is well known, the family-level relationships are still debated. Here, we present, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the superfamilies Papilionoidea, Hesperioidea and Hedyloidea to date based on morphological and molecular data. We reconstructed their phylogenetic relationships using parsimony and Bayesian approaches. We estimated times and rates of diversification along lineages in order to reconstruct their evolutionary history. Our results suggest that the butterflies, as traditionally understood, are paraphyletic, with Papilionidae being the sister-group to Hesperioidea, Hedyloidea and all other butterflies. Hence, the families in the current three superfamilies should be placed in a single superfamily Papilionoidea. In addition, we find that Hedylidae is sister to Hesperiidae, and this novel relationship is supported by two morphological characters. The families diverged in the Early Cretaceous but diversified after the Cretaceous–Palaeogene event. The diversification of butterflies is characterized by a slow speciation rate in the lineage leading to Baronia brevicornis, a period of stasis by the skippers after divergence and a burst of diversification in the lineages leading to Nymphalidae, Riodinidae and Lycaenidae.

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