16 September 2014
Calisto is the largest butterfly genus in the West Indies but its systematics, historical biogeography and the causes of its diversification have not been previously rigorously evaluated. Several studies attempting to explain the wide-ranging diversity of Calisto gave different weights to vicariance, dispersal and adaptive radiation. We utilized molecular phylogenetic approaches and secondary calibrations points to estimate lineage ages. In addition, we used the dispersal-extinction-cladogenesis model and Caribbean paleogeographical information to reconstruct ancestral geographical distributions. We also evaluated different models of diversification to estimate the dynamics of lineage radiation within Calisto. By understanding the evolution of Calisto butterflies, we attempt to identify the main processes acting on insular insect diversity and the causes of its origin and its maintenance.
The crown age of Calisto was estimated to the early Oligocene (31 ± 5 Ma), and a single shift in diversification rate following a diversity-dependent speciation process was the best explanation for the present-day diversity found within the genus. A major increase in diversification rate was recovered at 14 Ma, following geological arrangements that favoured the availability of empty niches. Inferred ancestral distributional ranges suggested that the origin of extant Calisto is in agreement with a vicariant model and the origin of the Cuban lineage was likely the result of vicariance caused by the Cuba-Hispaniola split. A long-distance dispersal was the best explanation for the colonization of Jamaica and the Bahamas.
The ancestral geographical distribution of Calisto is in line with the paleogeographical model of Caribbean colonization, which favours island-to-island vicariance. Because the sister lineage of Calisto remains ambiguous, its arrival to the West Indies remains to be explained, although, given its age and historical biogeography, the hypothesized GAARlandia land bridge might have been a plausible introduction route from continental America. Intra-island radiation caused by ecological innovation and the abiotic creation of niche spaces was found to be the main force shaping Calisto diversity and island endemism in Hispaniola and Cuba.