Eur. J. Entomol. 108 (1): 53-62, 2011 | 10.14411/eje.2011.007

A phylogenetic test of the parasite-host associations between Maculinea butterflies (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) and Myrmica ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Gunther JANSEN*, Kari VEPSÄLÄINEN, Riitta SAVOLAINEN
Department of Biosciences, P.O. Box 65, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland; e-mails: Kari.Vepsalainen@helsinki.fi;

The parasitic caterpillars of Maculinea (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) need to be adopted and nursed by ants of the genus Myrmica (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Each Maculinea species is locally associated with one or a few main and often several secondary host species. To determine whether the parasite-host associations bear marks of cophylogenetic constraints, we reconstructed phylogenies of Maculinea and Myrmica using DNA sequence data. We searched for evidence of cospeciation with a tree-independent (ParaFit) and tree-based (TreeFitter) method. This did not reveal any indication of phylogenetic host tracking in Maculinea. This agrees with earlier insights, which emphasise that as most of the potential host ant populations are never infested by Maculinea, the selective pressure of the butterflies on Myrmica is likely to be slight. Each Maculinea species also specialises on one or a few host plant species before adoption by ants. We suggest that Maculinea species have a substantial potential to accommodate evolutionarily to geographically changing ranges of potential Myrmica hosts, available at the oviposition sites of the butterflies. We use recently published evidence on geographically varying host ant species to discuss a suite of plausible scenarios of adaptive shifts to new Myrmica host species.

Keywords: Coevolution, host switching, Large blues, local adaptation, Maculinea, Myrmica, Phengaris

Received: June 22, 2010; Accepted: September 17, 2010; Published: January 3, 2011

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