Admiral butterflies (genus Limenitis) are a particularly appealing system to address questions regarding wing pattern evolution and speciation. This genus is unusual among other butterflies in that mimicry has evolved multiple times and hybridization is frequent between wing pattern forms. An interesting fact of wing pattern evolution within this genus is the apparent differences between the largely stereotypic Paleartic fauna and the highly variable Nearctic forms of butterflies.
Palearctic and Nearctic forms regard to different ecozones dividing the earth’s land surface. The Palearctic is the largest ecozone. It includes Europe, Asia north of the Himalaya, northern Africa, and the northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The Nearctic ecozone covers most of North America, including Greenland and the highlands of Mexico, Southern Mexico, Southern Florida, Central America, and the Caribbean islands together with South America.
The Palearctic forms have a uniformly dark brown or black background wing color with one major band of white pigment running across both the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the wings. Variations among these species is predominately subtle in variations of this white-band wing pattern. In contrast, wing patterns in Nearctic forms are diverse. There are three lineages of mimicry in admiral butterflies that occur in North America which may have played a large role in the diversification of this group.
The most recognized example of mimicry among the North American Limenitis butterflies is the relationship between the Viceroy butterfly and the Monarch butterfly. In the Monarch butterflies they are said to be foul tasting and poisonous due to the presence of cardenolides in their body, which they ingest as they feed on milkweed. In the viceroy butterflies they feed on Salicaceae plants and ingest salicylic acid in their bodies which makes them bitter and upsets predators stomachs. This is said to be a classic example of Mullerian mimicry. Mullerian mimicry is where two or more harmful species that are not closely related share one or more common predators, and mimic each other’s warning signals. Another example of mimicry in the genus Limenitis occurs in the western United States where Batesian mimicry has evolved between the Lorquin’s admiral butterfly and the California Sister butterfly. Batesian mimicry is where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a common predator. Final example of mimicry among the Nearctic Limenitis butterflies involves the white-banded admiral butterfly found in southeastern and southwestern United States. This is also considered to be a Batesian mimic of the Pipevine swallowtail. These are all examples of divergent evolution
divergent evolution is the naturally selected changes in related species that once shared a characteristic in common but have come to be different.
Lineage – descendants of an individual
Speciation – is the formation of new species through natural selection Monophyletic – is a group of taxa that contains an ancestor and all of its descendants Paraphyletic – is a taxonomic group which does not include all the descendants of an ancestral taxon Polyphyletic – pertains to a group of species that does not include the most recent common ancestral species of the entire group
In this study it will show that 1.) the Nearctic Limenitis represents a monophyletic lineage and that each wing pattern race represents a discrete mitochondrial lineage; 2.) that the Poplar admiral is the closest Palearctic relative of the North American forms, and argue that an ancestral host plant switch to Salicaceae has played a significant role in the colonization of North American forms, and 3.) the differences in wing pattern diversity between the Nearctic and Palearctic Limenitis may be due to an increased mating opportunity resulting in wing pattern mimicry...
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