Ecological specialization drives rapid diversification in neotropical Adelpha butterflies: a phylogenomic approach
Ebel, Emily Rose
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Adaptive radiations provide exceptional opportunities to examine the relationships between natural selection, adaptation, and speciation. Neotropical Adelpha butterflies may represent such a radiation, characterized by extraordinary breadth in host plant use and wing color patterns. In this study, we use genome-wide RAD markers to reconstruct the complex evolutionary history of Adelpha and the closely related temperate genus, Limenitis. Despite the presence of significant missing data, a variety of phylogenetic methods produce similar and highly supported trees. These well-resolved phylogenies allow for the identification of an ecologically important shift to a toxic host plant family, as well as the confirmation of rampant wing pattern mimicry throughout the genus. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that the colonization of novel host plants represents a key evolutionary innovation that is fueling ongoing adaptive diversification within this large, phenotypically diverse butterfly radiation.