Miocene Climate and Habitat Change Drove Diversification in Bicyclus, Africa’s Largest Radiation of Satyrine Butterflies

Kwaku Aduse-Poku* (Corresponding Author), Erik van Bergen, Szabolcs Safian, Steve C. Collins, Rampal S. Etienne, Leonel Herrera Alsina, Paul M. Brakefield, Oskar Brattstrom, David J. Lohman, Niklas Wahlberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Compared to other regions, the drivers of diversification in Africa are poorly understood. We studied a radiation of insects with over 100 species occurring in a wide range of habitats across the Afrotropics to investigate the fundamental
evolutionary processes and geological events that generate and maintain patterns of species richness on the continent. By investigating the evolutionary history of Bicyclus butterflies within a phylogenetic framework, we inferred the group’s origin at the Oligo-Miocene boundary from ancestors in the Congolian rainforests of central Africa. Abrupt climatic fluctuations during the Miocene (ca. 19–17Ma) likely fragmented ancestral populations, resulting in at least eight early-divergent lineages. Only one of these lineages appears to have diversified during the drastic climate and biome changes of the early Miocene, radiating into the largest group of extant species. The other seven lineages diversified in forest ecosystems during the late Miocene and Pleistocene when climatic conditions were more favorable—warmer and wetter. Our results suggest changing Neogene climate, uplift of eastern African orogens, and biotic interactions have had different effects on the various subclades of Bicyclus, producing one of the most spectacular butterfly radiations in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570–588
Number of pages19
JournalSystematic Biology
Issue number3
Early online date7 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the European Research Council grant EMARES [250325 to P.M.B.] and NSF [DEB-1541557 to D.J.L.]; the Swedish Research Council [Grant No. 2015-04441 to N.W.].

This work is dedicated to Michel Condamin and Torben Bjørn Larsen, without whose impressive scholarly foundation we would not have been able to carry out this research. We are also thankful to David C. Lees for comments on initial drafts of the manuscript. Specimen locality records were recorded from the museum collections of ABRI (Nairobi), CEP-MZUJ (Krakow), EMUL (Lund), MNHB (Berlin), MRAC (Tervuren), NHMUK (London), NHMW (Vienna), NHRS (Stockholm), OUMNH (Oxford), SMNS (Stuttgart), and ZFMK (Bonn). We thank the curators and trustees of these collections.


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