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Home A phylogenetic study to assess the link between biome specialization and diversification in swallowtail butterflies

A phylogenetic study to assess the link between biome specialization and diversification in swallowtail butterflies

The resource-use hypothesis, proposed by E.S. Vrba, states that habitat fragmentation caused by climatic oscillations would affect particularly biome specialists (species inhabiting only one biome), which might show higher speciation and extinction rates than biome generalists. If true, lineages would accumulate biome-specialist species. This effect would be particularly exacerbated for biomes located at the periphery of the global climatic conditions, namely, biomes that have high/low precipitation and high/low temperature such as rainforest (warm-humid), desert (warm-dry), steppe (cold-dry) and tundra (cold-humid). Here, we test these hypotheses in swallowtail butterflies, a clade with more than 570 species, covering all the continents but Antarctica, and all climatic conditions. Swallowtail butterflies are among the most studied insects, and they are a model group for evolutionary biology and ecology studies. Continental macroecological rules are normally tested using vertebrates, this means that there are fewer examples exploring terrestrial invertebrate patterns at global scale. Here, we compiled a large Geographic Information System database on swallowtail butterflies' distribution maps and used the most complete time-calibrated phylogeny to quantify diversification rates (DRs). In this paper, we aim to answer the following questions: (1) Are there more biome-specialist swallowtail butterflies than biome generalists? (2) Is DR related to biome specialization? (3) If so, do swallowtail butterflies inhabiting extreme biomes show higher DRs? (4) What is the effect of species distribution area? Our results showed that swallowtail family presents a great number of biome specialists which showed substantially higher DRs compared to generalists. We also found that biome specialists are unevenly distributed across biomes. Overall, our results are consistent with the resource-use hypothesis, species climatic niche and biome fragmentation as key factors promoting isolation.


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