Molecular phylogeny and evolutionary biology of Acrodipsas (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)
Most butterflies in the family Lycaenidae associate with ants but fewer than 3% are myrmecophagous. Larvae of the Australian endemic butterfly genus Acrodipsas parasitise the nests of ants from two subfamilies and, thus, constitute an interesting and uncommon myrmecophagous radiation within the Lepidoptera. Phylogenetic relationships among Acrodipsas species were inferred from fragments of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunits I and II totalling 1155 bp using maximum parsimony and a neighbour joining method. Monophyly of the genus was confirmed, as was the sister genus status of Lucia. Acrodipsas myrmecophila was established as the plesiotypic Acrodipsas species, which together with Acrodipsas brisbanensis parasitises the ancestral dolichoderine host-ants. A speciation event associated with a radical host-ant shift to Myrmicinae occurred in an ancestor of Acrodipsas cuprea but subsequent speciation events may have been driven by climatic fluctuations during the Pleistocene. Modifications to leg morphology in several species were found to be a synapomorphic state, which arose subsequent to the host-shift to Myrmicinae. Minimal genetic variation detected in allopatric species exhibiting divergent morphology suggests that phenotypic variability has been driven by strong environmental selective pressures. As a result, morphological differences between closely related allopatric species have evolved faster than genetic differences, most notably between Acrodipsas arcana and Acrodipsas illidgei. In contrast, sympatric lineages of A. brisbanensis across similar habitats show considerable genetic differentiation, yet have remained phenotypically indistinguishable. Successful amplification of short overlapping fragments of DNA from museum specimens confirms their utility for phylogenetic analysis when the availability of fresh tissue is limited.
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution