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Miletinae Butterfly

7 gene phylogeny

Of the four most diverse insect orders, Lepidoptera contains remarkably few predatory and parasitic species.  The wholly aphytophagous subfamily Miletinae (Lycaenidae) is a conspicuous exception, consisting of nearly 140 species.  Most miletines eat Hemiptera, although some also consume ant brood or are fed by ant trophallaxis.

I inferred a phylogeny using 4,915 bp from seven markers sampled from representatives of all 13 recognized genera and nearly half the described species. 


Phylogenetic constraint in prey selection is apparent at two levels: closely related miletine species are more likely to feed on closely related Hemiptera, and most miletine genera are associated with ants from a single subfamily. This, in concert with field observations, suggests that female miletines may use ants as cues to locate their hemipteran prey.


Biogeographic analyses indicate that Miletinae likely diverged from an African ancestor.  Four lineages dispersed between Africa and Asia, and the ancestor of Feniseca tarquinius colonized North America from Asia. 

                                                                         Lachnocnema bibulus

                                                                 photo by Piotr Naskrecki

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