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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Dec 22;276(1677):4295-302. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1303. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Nymphalid butterflies diversify following near demise at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary.

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Laboratory of Genetics, Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland.


The butterfly family Nymphalidae contains some of the most important non-drosophilid insect model systems for evolutionary and ecological studies, yet the evolutionary history of the group has remained shrouded in mystery. We have inferred a robust phylogenetic hypothesis based on sequences of 10 genes and 235 morphological characters for exemplars of 400 of the 540 valid nymphalid genera representing all major lineages of the family. By dating the branching events, we infer that Nymphalidae originated in the Cretaceous at 90 Ma, but that the ancestors of 10-12 lineages survived the end-Cretaceous catastrophe in the Neotropical and Oriental regions. Patterns of diversification suggest extinction of lineages at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary (65 Ma) and subsequent elevated speciation rates in the Tertiary.

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