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Biogeographic and diversification patterns of Neotropical Troidini butterflies (Papilionidae) support a museum model of diversity dynamics for Amazonia

Fabien L Condamine12*, Karina L Silva-Brandão3, Gael J Kergoat1 and Felix AH Sperling4

Author affiliations

1 INRA, UMR Centre de Biologie pour la Gestion des Populations, CBGP, (INRA/IRD/CIRAD/Montpellier SupAgro), Campus International de Baillarguet, CS30016, 34988, Montferrier-sur-Lez, France

2 CNRS, UMR 7641 Centre de Mathématiques Appliquées (École Polytechnique), Route de Saclay, 91128, Palaiseau, France

3 Departamento de Entomologia e Acarologia, Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz”, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Padua Dias 11, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil, 13418-900

4 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 2E9

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:82  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-82

Published: 12 June 2012



The temporal and geographical diversification of Neotropical insects remains poorly understood because of the complex changes in geological and climatic conditions that occurred during the Cenozoic. To better understand extant patterns in Neotropical biodiversity, we investigated the evolutionary history of three Neotropical swallowtail Troidini genera (Papilionidae). First, DNA-based species delimitation analyses were conducted to assess species boundaries within Neotropical Troidini using an enlarged fragment of the standard barcode gene. Molecularly delineated species were then used to infer a time-calibrated species-level phylogeny based on a three-gene dataset and Bayesian dating analyses. The corresponding chronogram was used to explore their temporal and geographical diversification through distinct likelihood-based methods.


The phylogeny for Neotropical Troidini was well resolved and strongly supported. Molecular dating and biogeographic analyses indicate that the extant lineages of Neotropical Troidini have a late Eocene (33–42 Ma) origin in North America. Two independent lineages (Battus and Euryades + Parides) reached South America via the GAARlandia temporary connection, and later became extinct in North America. They only began substantive diversification during the early Miocene in Amazonia. Macroevolutionary analysis supports the “museum model” of diversification, rather than Pleistocene refugia, as the best explanation for the diversification of these lineages.


This study demonstrates that: (i) current Neotropical biodiversity may have originated ex situ; (ii) the GAARlandia bridge was important in facilitating invasions of South America; (iii) colonization of Amazonia initiated the crown diversification of these swallowtails; and (iv) Amazonia is not only a species-rich region but also acted as a sanctuary for the dynamics of this diversity. In particular, Amazonia probably allowed the persistence of old lineages and contributed to the steady accumulation of diversity over time with constant net diversification rates, a result that contrasts with previous studies on other South American butterflies.

Amazon rainforest; Andean uplift; Biogeography; Diversification; GAARlandia connection; Swallowtail butterflies