Chapter

Biodiversity Conservation and Phylogenetic Systematics

Volume 14 of the series Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation pp 333-354

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Patterns of Species, Phylogenetic and Mimicry Diversity of Clearwing Butterflies in the Neotropics

  • Nicolas ChazotAffiliated withInstitut de Systématique, Evolution, Biodiversité, ISYEB – UMR 7205 CNRS MNHN UPMC EPHE, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sorbonne Universités Email author 
  • , Keith R. WillmottAffiliated withMcGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
  • , André V. L. FreitasAffiliated withDepartamento de Zoologia and Museu de História Natural, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas
  • , Donna Lisa de SilvaAffiliated withInstitut de Systématique, Evolution, Biodiversité, ISYEB – UMR 7205 CNRS MNHN UPMC EPHE, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sorbonne Universités
  • , Roseli PellensAffiliated withInstitut de Systématique, Evolution, Biodiversité, ISYEB – UMR 7205 CNRS MNHN UPMC EPHE, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sorbonne Universités
  • , Marianne EliasAffiliated withInstitut de Systématique, Evolution, Biodiversité, ISYEB – UMR 7205 CNRS MNHN UPMC EPHE, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sorbonne Universités

Abstract

The Neotropical region comprises six of the major biodiversity hotspots of the planet, including the Andean foothills, which harbour the most diverse terrestrial ecosystems. It is also one of those most threatened by habitat destruction and climatic changes, which cause species extirpation and sometimes extinction, resulting in community disassembly and loss of interspecific interactions. The effects of community disassembly can be particularly strong in highly coevolved mutualistic species assemblages, such as Müllerian mimetic species. Conservation strategies should therefore aim at preserving not only evolutionary diversity, but also species interactions. Here we use mimetic ithomiine butterflies (Nymphalidae: Danainae, Ithomiini) as a model to identify areas of both evolutionary and ecological importance, and hence conservation significance. Ithomiine butterflies form a tribe of ca. 380 species that inhabit lowland and montane Neotropical forests. All species engage in Müllerian mimicry, and drive mimicry in other, distantly related, Lepidoptera. We analyse phylogenetic, distribution and mimicry data for three diverse ithomiine genera, Napeogenes, Ithomia and Oleria. We use different metrics to study geographical patterns of diversity. Patterns of species richness, phylogenetic diversity and mimicry diversity are highly congruent within genera but slightly different among genera. Mountainous regions contain the greatest taxonomic and mimetic diversity in ithomiines, with the Andean foothill region being the area of highest diversity, but other regions, such as Central America and the upper Amazon, are also important. Finally, a measure of vulnerability related to mimicry indicates that mutualistic interactions are not distributed evenly across space and genera. We argue that mutualistic interactions should be taken into account in conservation strategies.

Keywords

Ithomiini Müllerian mimicry Phylogenetic diversity Amazonia Andes