Lycaenid-ant interactions of the : tracing their historical roots in a comparative frameworkMaculinea: tracing their historical roots in a comparative framework type: tracing their historical roots in a comparative framework

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Parasitic relationships between lycaenid butterfly larvae and ants are contrasted with the more common, and ancestral, mutualistic butterfly-ant associations. Three types of lycaenid-ant parasitism can be recognized: (i) the Miletinae type (derived from predation on Homoptera); (ii) the Aphnaeini type (derived from obligate and specific mutualism or commensalism); and (iii) the Maculinea type (derived from facultative mutualism, only represented by the genera Maculinea and Lepidochrysops). Parasitic lycaenid-ant interactions are rare (37 confirmed recorded cases worldwide) and are mostly confined to single species, or small species-groups, in larger non-parasitic clades. Only the two genera representing the Maculinea type have undergone substantial radiation. Ant-parasitic lycaenids predominantly occur in highly seasonal habitats with an extended unfavourable dry or cold season. These observations suggest that (a) parasitic interactions are relatively unstable in evolutionary time, and (b) their evolution usually started with caterpillars seeking shelter in ant nests. Ecological and zoogeographical data for species of the Glaucopsychiti (of which Maculinea forms a part) are compiled and used to discuss the evolutionary origin of ant-parasitism in Maculinea butterflies in a comparative framework. These comparisons suggest that (a) Maculinea evolved from facultative unspecific ant-mutualists, (b) the loss of larval tentacle organs is primarily related to their endophytic feeding habits, (c) that Lamiaceae were the hostplants of ancestral Maculinea, and (d) that Maculinea evolved in eastern central Asia. Further phylogenetic and biogeographical analyses are required to quantitatively test these possibilities. © Rapid Science Ltd. 1998

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