University of Oulu

Todisco, V., Grill, A., Fiedler, K., Gottsberger, B., Dincă, V., Vodă, R., Lukhtanov, V., Letsch, H. (2018) Molecular phylogeny of the Palaearctic butterfly genus Pseudophilotes (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) with focus on the Sardinian endemic P. barbagiae. BMC Zoology, 3 (1), 4. doi:10.1186/s40850-018-0032-7

Molecular phylogeny of the Palaearctic butterfly genus Pseudophilotes (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) with focus on the Sardinian endemic P. barbagiae

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Author: Todisco, Valentina1; Grill, Andrea1; Fiedler, Konrad1;
Organizations: 1Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, Division of Tropical Ecology and Animal Biodiversity, University of Vienna
2Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu
3Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
4DBIOS, Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei Sistemi, Università degli Studi di Torino
5Department of Karyosystematics, Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences
6Department of Entomology, St. Petersburg State University
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-11-15


Background: The Palaearctic butterfly genus Pseudophilotes Beuret, 1958 (Lycaenidae: Polyommatinae), that today occurs in North Africa and in Eurasia, includes ten described species with various distribution ranges, including endemics such as the Sardinian P. barbagiae. Phylogenetic relationships among these species are largely unresolved. In the present study, we analysed 158 specimens, representing seven species out of ten described in the genus, from widely distributed sites throughout the western Palaearctic region, using nuclear markers (28S rRNA, wingless, Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 and Elongation Factor 1α) and the barcoding region of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene to investigate if the current taxonomic entities match the phylogenetic pattern. Further, we attempt to infer the geographic origin of the genus Pseudophilotes and estimate the timing of its radiations, including the split of the Sardinian endemic P. barbagiae.

Results: Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian inference analyses confirmed the monophyly of the genus Pseudophilotes and clearly supported the closer affinity of P. barbagiae to the species assemblage of P. baton, P. vicrama and P. panoptes as opposed to P. abencerragus. The currently accepted species P. baton, P. vicrama and P. panoptes turned out to be weakly differentiated from each other, while P. bavius and P. fatma emerged as highly distinct and formed a well supported clade. The split between the lineage comprising bavius and fatma (sometimes treated as a distinct genus, Rubrapterus) with Salvia species as larval host plants, and the remaining Pseudophilotes that utilize Thymus and other Lamiaceae (but not Salvia), dates back to about 4.9 million years ago (Mya).

Conclusions: Our results show that the last common ancestor of the genus probably lived in the Messinian period (5.33–7.25 Mya). At species level, they support the current taxonomy of the genus, although P. panoptes, P. baton and P. vicrama display complex patterns based on phylogeographic relationships inferred from mtDNA. The Sardinian endemic P. barbagiae turned out to be a young endemic, but clearly with European instead of North African origin and evolved through allopatric isolation on the island of Sardinia only about 0.74 Mya.

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Series: BMC zoology
ISSN: 2056-3132
ISSN-E: 2056-3132
ISSN-L: 2056-3132
Volume: 3
Article number: 4
DOI: 10.1186/s40850-018-0032-7
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: FWF grant V168-B17 to A. Grill, a Marie Curie IOF within the 7th European Community Framework Programme to V. Dincă (project no. 625997), the European Union’s Seventh Framework programme for research and innovation under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 609402–2020 researchers: Train to Move (T2M) to R. Vodă, the Russian Science Foundation to the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (N 14–14-00541) to V. Lukhtanov. Genetic analyses were further supported through funds of the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria.
Dataset Reference: Additional file 1: Dataset analysed in this study. Taxon = Pseudophilotes and outgroup species analysed in this study. Sample numbers (N), collection locality, population code, mtDNA haplotype code and GenBank code.
Additional file 2: Primer names, references, primer sequences as well as respective annealing temperatures used to amplify nuclear and mitochondrial markers in the present study.
Additional file 3: Maximum-likelihood tree. Maximum-likelihood phylogeny inferred from the combined genes dataset of Pseudophilotes and outgroups, with bootstrap support (%) indicated for the seven species analysed.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.