A single origin of Batesian mimicry among hybridizing populations of admiral butterflies (Limenitis arthemis) rejects an evolutionary reversion to the ancestral phenotype

  • Savage W
  • Mullen S
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Batesian mimicry is a fundamental example of adaptive phenotypic evolution driven by strong natural selection. Given the potentially dramatic impacts of selection on individual fitness, it is important to understand the conditions under which mimicry is maintained versus lost. Although much empirical and theoretical work has been devoted to the maintenance of Batesian mimicry, there are no conclusive examples of its loss in natural populations. Recently, it has been proposed that non-mimetic populations of the polytypic Limenitis arthemis species complex represent an evolutionary loss of Batesian mimicry, and a reversion to the ancestral phenotype. Here, we evaluate this conclusion using segregating amplified fragment length polymorphism markers to investigate the history and fate of mimicry among forms of the L. arthemis complex and closely related Nearctic Limenitis species. In contrast to the previous finding, our results support a single origin of mimicry within the L. arthemis complex and the retention of the ancestral white-banded form in non-mimetic populations. Our finding is based on a genome-wide sampling approach to phylogeny reconstruction that highlights the challenges associated with inferring the evolutionary relationships among recently diverged species or populations (i.e. incomplete lineage sorting, introgressive hybridization and/or selection).

Author-supplied keywords

  • Amplified fragment length polymorphism
  • Gene flow
  • Limenitis
  • Mimicry
  • Phylogeny
  • Wing pattern evolution

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  • Wesley K. Savage

  • Sean P. Mullen

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