Butterfly evolution is studied

December 5, 2005

University College London scientists say they've found why so many species of butterflies live in Central and South America, as compared with other places.

Tropical areas of south and central America, such as the Amazon rainforest, are home to some 7,500 species of butterfly, compared with only around 65 species in Britain.

The UCL scientists say they ruled out the common theory that attributes the difference to climate. Instead, they believe biology played a far greater role than external factors.

"Different types of rainforest butterflies in the Amazon basin are evolving at very different rates, not at all the pattern expected if forest refuges during the ice ages were causing the origin of new species," said UCL Biology Professor Jim Mallet, who led the research. "Instead, we think idiosyncratic features of the biology of each species, such as competition for food and their individual reactions to the environment, dictate the pattern of evolution in each group."

The research is detailed in the Dec. 7 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Climate policies alone will not save Earth's most diverse tropical forests

Related Stories

Microbes rule in 'knee-high tropical rainforests'

January 12, 2017

Rainforests on infertile wet soils support more than half of all plant species. Shrublands on infertile dry soils in southwestern Australia, jokingly called "knee-high tropical rainforests", support another 20 percent of ...

Testing how species respond to climate change

January 10, 2017

Predicting how species will respond to climate change is a critical part of efforts to prevent widespread climate-driven extinction, or to predict its consequences for ecosystems.

Recommended for you

Moth gut bacterium defends its host by making antibiotic

January 19, 2017

Nearly half of all insects are herbivores, but their diets do not consist of only plant material. It is not uncommon for potentially harmful microorganisms to slip in during a feast. In a study published on January 19 in ...

Caves in central China show history of natural flood patterns

January 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that major flooding and large amounts of precipitation occur on 500-year cycles in central China. These findings shed light on the forecasting of future floods and improve ...

Balance may rely on the timing of movement

January 19, 2017

Zebrafish learn to balance by darting forward when they feel wobbly, a principle that may also apply to humans, according to a study led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.