In butterflies, wing color patterns facilitate inter- and intraspecific communication, and play important roles in defensive camouflage (crypsis) and aposematism (warning coloration). Multiple studies have shown that the signals conferred by color patterns differ depending on their location (dorsal vs. ventral). Namely, dorsal patterns seem to be mostly used for sexual recognition purposes while ventral color patterns often reflect signals to avoid or to confer protection from predation.
Eunica is a perfect model group to study the evolution of dorsal and ventral color patterns and the overall signals conferred by these patterns due to the puzzling variation observed in these traits (pictures above).
Together with the variation in color patterns, of the 40 species in the genus, 27 are sexually dimorphic; sexual dimorphism is mostly restricted to the coloration of the dorsal surface of the wing (reinforcing the idea that dorsal patterns are used in intra-specific communication). The females of sexually dimorphic species are for the most part, dull brown and exhibit a series of white maculae (spots) in their forewing; in contrast their corresponding males are typically darker, and exhibit brilliant iridescent patterns that varies across species (as in the pic on the top).
Eunica are fast and strong flyers that live in the forest of exceptionally diverse habitats within Central America, the Caribbean and the three major Neotropical biomes (i.e., the Amazon basin, the Andes and the Brazilian Atlantic forest).
Phylogenetic hypothesis of Eunica proposed by Dale Jenkins in 1990, the tree was obtained with parsimony and it is presumably the strict consensus of multiple parsimonious trees. The topology is based on 55 morphological characters. The characters matrix included features from genitalia, wing color and wing venation.
Aim and Data
The aim of this study is to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationship among the species of Eunica and their African close relatives so we can begin elucidating and describing the patterns of character change followed by these traits along Eunica's evolutionary history.
Current efforts are directed to amplify and sequence 10 molecular markers and the addition of morphological data in the future.