Why do cryptic species tend not to co-occur? A case study on two cryptic pairs of butterflies

Raluca Vodə, Leonardo Dapporto, Vlad Dincə, Roger Vila

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    44 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2015 Vodə et al. As cryptic diversity is being discovered, mostly thanks to advances in molecular techniques, it is becoming evident that many of these taxa display parapatric distributions in mainland and that they rarely coexist on islands. Genetic landscapes, haplotype networks and ecological niche modeling analyses were performed for two pairs of non-sister cryptic butterfly species, Aricia agestis-A. cramera and Polyommatus icarus-P. celina (Lycaenidae), to specifically assess non-coexistence on western Mediterranean islands, and to test potential causes producing such chequered distribution patterns. We show that the morphologically and ecologically equivalent pairs of species do not coexist on any of the studied islands, although nearly all islands are colonized by one of them. According to our models, the cryptic pairs displayed marked climatic preferences and 'precipitation during the driest quarter' was recovered as the most important climatic determinant. However, neither dispersal capacity, nor climatic or ecological factors fully explain the observed distributions across particular sea straits, and the existence of species interactions resulting in mutual exclusion is suggested as a necessary hypothesis. Given that the studied species are habitat generalists, feeding on virtually unlimited resources, we propose that reproductive interference, together with climatic preferences, sustain density-dependent mechanisms like "founder takes all" and impede coexistence on islands. Chequered distributions among cryptic taxa, both sister and non-sister, are common in butterflies, suggesting that the phenomenon revealed here could be important in determining biodiversity patterns.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0117802
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2015


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