MOLECULAR SYSTEMATICS OF THE BUTTERFLY TRIBE PREPONINI (NYMPHALIDAE: CHARAXINAE)

Focus group: Tribe Preponini

 

Butterflies-Masters

Department of Entomology and Nematology and McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity (FLMNH) – University of Florida.

Fall 2009 – Fall 2011

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The need of a reliable classification scheme for the tribe was lacking, and since a solid framework is a requirement for any ecological and evolutionary study, we decided to focus on that task!

This project was very comprehensive and required a lot of work. It involved field and laboratory work, as well as butterfly collection curation. A very important aspect of this project was the role played by collaborators. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to obtain all the data included in our research; special thanks to all of them!

So, first we went to the field to collect the bugs. Meanwhile, collaborators were collecting and processing butterfly samples from other localities and countries. This phase was carried out multiple times during the two years period.

Ok, so the butterfly samples were collected/donated, and now what?

We processed them in the molecular lab. This process required extracting DNA, amplifying certain regions (i.e. target genes), and then sequencing those regions. Once the sequence was obtained, we moved from the molecular lab to the computer lab (same location but different area!). There, using specific programs (here again, thanks to the programmers!) we were able to reconstruct the molecular phylogeny for the tribe, and clarify the relationships among the species.

But, don’t think it was over. The beauty of it all is that the hypothesis (i.e. the tree) we produced: i) can be retested by adding taxa/characters, ii) arose questions at lower taxonomical levels, and iii) allows the exploration of patterns such as the evolution of bright colors. That is our new goal; the PhD dissertation!

The paper can be found here.

A quick glimpse to the phylogeny of Preponini:

 

MasterPaper-Figure_1_color