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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Dec 7;272(1580):2457-66.

Montane speciation patterns in Ithomiola butterflies (Lepidoptera: Riodinidae): are they consistently moving up in the world?

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  • 1National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Department of Entomology Washington, DC 20560-127, USA.


Tropical lowland areas have often been seen as the centres of terrestrial species proliferation, but recent evidence suggests that young species may be more frequent in montane areas. Several montane speciation modes have been proposed, but their relative frequencies and predominant evolutionary sequence remain unclear because so few biogeographic and phylogenetic studies have tested such questions. I use morphological data to generate a phylogenetic hypothesis for all 11 species of the riodinid butterfly genus Ithomiola (Riodininae: Mesosemiini: Napaeina). These species are shown here to be all strictly geographically and elevationally allo- or parapatrically distributed with respect to their closest relatives in lowland and montane regions throughout the Neotropics. The overwhelming pattern in Ithomiola is of repeated upward parapatric speciation across an elevational gradient, and the genus appears to provide the clearest example to date of vertical montane speciation. All of the young derived species are montane and all of the old basal species are confined to the lowlands, supporting the hypothesis of montane regions largely as 'species pumps' and lowland regions as 'museums'. Possible reasons for the post-speciation maintenance of parapatric ranges in Ithomiola are discussed.

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