butterfly-plant coevolution

Niklas Wahlberg Niklas.Wahlberg at zoologi.su.se
Thu Jan 10 10:18:31 EST 2002

At 14:05 09.01.2002 -0800, Patrick Foley wrote:
>Dear list,
>For those of us who can handle Evolution, (in this case Janz, N. and S.
>Nylin 1998. Butterflies and plants: a phylogenetic study. Evolution
>52:486-502), what do you think about this update of the Ehrlich and
>Raven 1964 problem?

Great stuff, but then I may have a biased view.

>In particular:
>1) Janz and Nylin piece together a phylogeny of the butterflies, often
>to the genus level. Any specific problems?

Certainly, when Janz and Nylin started out on that study, there were very 
few phylogenetic studies published on butterflies. What they did was to use 
the best classifications at the time to put together a possible 
phylogenetic tree. Now we know that some of those classifications got it 
wrong and there are some surprising, unexpected relationships out there. We 
are working on figuring out exactly what those relationships are at the 
moment. I bet that once we have strong phylogenetic hypotheses available 
for the butterflies, the conclusions in Janz and Nylin will be strengthened.

>2) Janz and Nylin reconstruct the ancestral host plant as perhaps
>Fabaceae or at least a Rosid. (This point was made by Scott 1986 also).
>What about all those primitive Papilionids that eat primitive

If you are referring to the parnassines and troidines feeding on 
Aristolochia, that appears to be a derived condition. Remember that 
Aristolochia is just packed with poisonous chemicals, and that one needs 
specialized physiological adaptations to deal with them. By the way, the 
most "primitive" papilionid (Baronia) feeds on Fabaceae, which is why that 
family came out as the most likely ancestral host plant family in Janz's 
and Nylin's study.

>3) Why isn't there a Butterfly book like Mabberly's The Plant Book,
>listing Butterfly genera and their distribution world wide. Or some kind
>of world-wide catalog of species? Is someone working on this?

Try Markku Savela's absolutely amazing site 
You should find all butterfly names there and their general distribution, 
if not, tell Markku! Otherwise I am not aware of anybody compiling a 
world-wide catalog. Smart's 1975 book  The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the 
Butterfly World has a checklist of all genera and most species in its 
appendix, but the classification of butterflies has changed much since then.


Niklas Wahlberg
Department of Zoology
Stockholm University
S-106 91 Stockholm

Phone: +46 8 164047
Fax:   +46 8 167715



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