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To mate, or not to mate: the evolution of reproductive diapause facilitates insect radiation into African savannahs in the Late Miocene

Citation

Halali, Sridhar; Brakefield, Paul M; Collins, Steve C; Brattström, Oskar (2019), To mate, or not to mate: the evolution of reproductive diapause facilitates insect radiation into African savannahs in the Late Miocene, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h44j0zpfv

Abstract

1. Many tropical environments experience cyclical seasonal changes, frequently with pronounced wet and dry seasons, leading to a highly uneven temporal distribution of resources. Short-lived animals inhabiting such environments often show season-specific adaptations to cope with alternating selection pressures. 2. African Bicyclus butterflies show strong seasonal polyphenism in a suite of phenotypic and life-history traits, and their adults are thought to undergo reproductive diapause associated with the lack of available larval host plants during the dry season. 3. Using three years of longitudinal field data for three species in Malawi, dissections demonstrated that one forest species reproduces continuously whereas two savannah species undergo reproductive diapause in the dry season, either with or without pre-diapause mating. Using additional data from field-collected and museum samples, we then documented the same three mating strategies for a further 37 species. 4. Phylogenetic analyses indicated that the ancestral state was a non-diapausing forest species, and that habitat preference and mating strategy evolved in a correlated fashion. 5. Bicyclus butterflies underwent rapid diversification during the Late Miocene, coinciding with expansions into more open savannah habitat. We conclude that the ability to undergo reproductive diapause was a key trait that facilitated colonization and eventual radiation into savannahs in the Late Miocene.