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Congruence and Diversity of Butterfly-Host Plant Associations at Higher Taxonomic Levels

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We aggregated data on butterfly-host plant associations from existing sources in order to address the following questions: (1) is there a general correlation between host diversity and butterfly species richness?, (2) has the evolution of host plant use followed consistent patterns across butterfly lineages?, (3) what is the common ancestral host plant for all butterfly lineages? The compilation included 44,148 records from 5,152 butterfly species (28.6% of worldwide species of Papilionoidea) and 1,193 genera (66.3%). The overwhelming majority of butterflies use angiosperms as host plants. Fabales is used by most species (1,007 spp.) from all seven butterfly families and most subfamilies, Poales is the second most frequently used order, but is mostly restricted to two species-rich subfamilies: Hesperiinae (56.5% of all Hesperiidae), and Satyrinae (42.6% of all Nymphalidae). We found a significant and strong correlation between host plant diversity and butterfly species richness. A global test for congruence (Parafit test) was sensitive to uncertainty in the butterfly cladogram, and suggests a mixed system with congruent associations between Papilionidae and magnoliids, Hesperiidae and monocots, and the remaining subfamilies with the eudicots (fabids and malvids), but also numerous random associations. The congruent associations are also recovered as the most probable ancestral states in each node using maximum likelihood methods. The shift from basal groups to eudicots appears to be more likely than the other way around, with the only exception being a Satyrine-clade within the Nymphalidae that feed on monocots. Our analysis contributes to the visualization of the complex pattern of interactions at superfamily level and provides a context to discuss the timing of changes in host plant utilization that might have promoted diversification in some butterfly lineages.

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Author and article information

[1]Kirstenbosch Research Centre, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town, Western Cape, Republic of South Africa
[2]Botany Department, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, Republic of South Africa
[3]Centro de Estudios Botánicos y Agroforestales, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Maracaibo, Estado Zulia, Venezuela
[4]Centro de Ecología, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Caracas, Distrito Capital, Venezuela
University Copenhagen, Denmark
Author notes
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Conceived and designed the experiments: JRFP ASM. Performed the experiments: JRFP ASM. Analyzed the data: JRFP. Wrote the paper: JRFP ASM ALV JD.
Role: Editor
PLoS One
Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA)
23 May 2013
: 8
: 5
Hans Henrik Bruun (Editor)

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Pages: 15
Funding : This work was supported by Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC), and by a postdoctoral fellowship “Threatened species program” from South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and University of Cape Town (UCT) to ASM and JRFP. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Research Article
Community Ecology
Food Web Structure
Species Interactions
Trophic Interactions
Evolutionary Ecology
Evolutionary Biology
Evolutionary Processes
Forms of Evolution
Evolutionary Ecology
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