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Phylogeography at large spatial scales: incongruent patterns of population structure and demography of Pan‐American butterflies associated with weedy habitats

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Aim  Few studies of comparative phylogeography have been conducted at very large spatial scales, encompassing species that are distributed across multiple continents. Several Pan‐American butterfly species associated with weedy, human‐modified habitats were studied using comparative phylogeographic tools to test for the congruence of demographic histories across a range of spatial scales and to investigate the effects of human‐facilitated range expansion.

Location  North and South America, mainly the southern United States, Brazil and Argentina.

Methods  The mitochondrial DNA cytochrome c oxidase subunit II region (COII) was sequenced for Hylephila phyleus, Lerodea eufala, Erynnis funeralis and Agraulis vanillae across their North and South American ranges. Data from these conspecifics were compared with variation in COII sequences between allopatric congener pairs on both continents whose ranges approximate the conspecifics and also share similar weedy habitat associations: Ancyloxypha numitor versus Ancyloxypha nitedula, Vanessa annabella versus Vanessa carye, and Euptoieta claudia versus Euptoieta hortensia. We tested for similarities in demographic histories within and across continents for each species using pairwise distances, population genetic statistics, mismatch distributions and deviations from mutation‐drift equilibrium.

Results  Mean pairwise divergence across continents was lower for Lerodea eufala and Hylephila phyleus (with several shared Pan‐American haplotypes each) compared with Erynnis funeralis and Agraulis vanillae (both with no shared haplotypes). Differentiation between congeneric species pairs was generally significantly higher than conspecific divergence across continents, but North and South American populations of A. vanillae were more divergent than V. annabella and V. carye. We found deviations from mutation‐drift equilibrium in A. vanillae. Population‐level variation was greater than the variation across continents for H. phyleus and L. eufala.

Main conclusions  We find little congruence in phylogeographic patterns among these taxa across continents, although similar demographic patterns can be detected at smaller regional levels. Except for Californian populations of some species, the North American distributions of these weedy butterfly species appear to largely pre‐date the influences of human‐facilitated range expansion.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA 2: Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA 3: Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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