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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Anthropogenic pressures coincide with Neotropical biodiversity hotspots in a flagship butterfly group

Dore, Mael; Willmott, Keith; Leroy, Boris; Chazot, Nicolas; Mallet, James; Freitas, Andre V. L.; Hall, Jason P. W.; Lamas, Gerardo; Dasmahapatra, Kanchon K.; Fontaine, Colin; Elias, Marianne


Aim The biodiversity crisis has highlighted the need to assess and map biodiversity in order to prioritize conservation efforts. Clearwing butterflies (tribe Ithomiini) have been proposed as biological indicators for habitat quality in Neotropical forests, which contain the world's richest biological communities. Here, we provide maps of different facets of Ithomiini diversity across the Neotropics to identify areas of evolutionary and ecological importance for conservation and evaluate their overlap with current anthropogenic threats. Location Neotropics. Methods We ran species distribution models on a data set based on 28,986 georeferenced occurrences representing 388 ithomiine species to generate maps of geographic rarity, taxonomic, phylogenetic and Mullerian mimetic wing pattern diversity. We quantified and mapped the overlap of diversity hotspots with areas threatened by or providing refuge from current anthropogenic pressures. Results The eastern slopes of the Andes formed the primary hotspot of taxonomic, phylogenetic and mimetic diversity, with secondary hotspots in Central America and the Atlantic Forest. Most diversity indices were strongly spatially correlated. Nevertheless, species-poor communities on the Pacific slopes of the Andes also sheltered some of the geographically rarest species. Overall, tropical montane forests that host high species and mimetic diversity as well as rare species and mimicry rings appeared particularly under threat. Main conclusions Remote parts of the Upper Amazon may act as refuges against current anthropogenic pressures for a limited portion of Ithomiini diversity. Furthermore, it is likely that the current threat status may worsen with ongoing climate change and deforestation. In this context, the tropical Andes occupy a crucial position as the primary hotspot for multiple facets of biodiversity for ithomiine butterflies, as they do for angiosperms, tetrapods and other insect taxa. Our results support the role of ithomiine butterflies as a suitable flagship indicator group for Neotropical butterfly diversity and reinforce the position of the tropical Andes as a flagship region for biodiversity conservation in general, and insect and butterfly conservation in particular.


anthropogenic pressures; biodiversity hotspots; geographic rarity; Human Footprint; human impacts; Ithomiini butterflies; Mullerian mimicry; phylogenetic diversity; species richness

Published in

Diversity and Distributions
2022, volume: 28, number: 12, pages: 2912-2930
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Dore, Mael
Sorbonne Universite
Willmott, Keith
University of Florida
Leroy, Boris
Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Mallet, James
Harvard University
Freitas, Andre V. L.
Universidade Estadual de Campinas
Hall, Jason P. W.
Smithsonian Institution
Lamas, Gerardo
Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos
Dasmahapatra, Kanchon K.
University of York - UK
Fontaine, Colin
Sorbonne Universite
Elias, Marianne
Sorbonne Universite

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

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