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Eco-PhyloGeo Report Summary

Project ID: 658844
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Eco-PhyloGeo (Linking phylogeography to ecology: extracting rules for butterfly biodiversity at large spatial scale)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

"Biological diversity is the result of the emergence of new species and their expansion through dispersal or contraction. These phenomena highly depend on peculiar features of the species, defined as ""traits"", and typically comprising size, dispersal capacity, feeding and reproductive ecology. Together with traits, present and past environmental factors like competitors, vegetational and geological features and climatic dynamics play a fundamental role. Phylogeography is the study of the spatial distribution of genetic lineages and it is currently one of the most integrative disciplines within biology, involving genetics, ecology, geomorphology, climatology and computer science. Phylogeography advances in recent decades allowed a better understanding of species emergence and distribution, thus allowing to predict their future occurrence and to develop evidence-based conservation strategies. Despite its potential, phylogeography has not yet been projected onto a unified ecological and evolutionary framework, mainly because most studies relied on restricted subsets of species without focussing on the whole communities.The Eco-PhyloGeo project aimed to fill this gap for West Mediterranean butterflies by creating and correlating two datasets: i) a high-resolution assessment of the mitochondrial gene COI of all the species occurring in this area, and ii) a dataset for their ecological traits. The project had two main objectives: 1) Complete and release the COI and species traits dataset to allow their use in biogeography, ecology and taxonomy. 2) Improve the methodological background to link phylogeography with ecological traits.
The action has been concluded eight months before due to a new employment of the researcher but most the goals has been achieved. In particular a web site has been constructed where about 15,000 of COI sequences for about 400 European species are freely available together with a series of ecological traits for the same species. A citizen science project with the same name has been also created ( and hundreds of occurrence data have been collected by butterfly amateurs. Finally, four papers where butterfly phyloegeography has been linked to a series of morphological and ecological traits have been published. It must be noted that the integrative approach of the EcoPhyloGeo project has also allowed the discovery of a new butterfly species (Spialia rosae) in the Iberian peninsula.
Understanding the mechanisms underlying the emergence of species, their expansion or contraction and the connected risk of extinction is a fundamental prerequisite in conservation ecology, mostly in a historical period when rapid environmental changes are producing fast and often unpredictable responses in living organisms."

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The main goals for the first year of the project were related to: sample acquisition, coding and obtaining the species traits, gather COI sequences and traits, and organize a workshop.

• 12 functional traits for the European butterflies were extracted from the literature

• Collections trips in Italy, France and Austria have been done

• Around 500 specimens have been sequenced for COI

• In collaboration with 2nd Quadrant company the following datasets have been integrated:

Updated taxonomy
COI sequences
Functional traits
Occurrence data

• The workshop ""Butterfly Week. Island biogeography, from fieldwork to data analysis"" has been organized on the Aeolian Islands.

For the second year, the main goals where: data analysis, publication and dissemination of the results and the release of the dataset. Accordingly:

• Four papers have been published on high rank ecology journals

Hernández‐Roldán JL, Dapporto L, et al. 2016 Integrative analyses unveil speciation linked to host plant shift in Spialia butterflies. Mol Ecol 25:4267-4284
Vodă R, Dapporto L, et al. 2016 Historical and contemporary factors generate unique butterfly communities on islands. Sci Rep 6:28828
Habel JC, Vila R, Vodă R, Husemann M, Schmitt T, Dapporto L, 2017 Differentiation in the marbled white butterfly species complex driven by multiple evolutionary forces. J Biogeogr 44:433–445
Fattorini S, Borges PA, Dapporto L, Strona G 2016 What can the parameters of the species–area relationship (SAR) tell us? Insights from Mediterranean islands. J Biogeogr DOI:10.1111/jbi.12874

• The datasets have been released in the web site

• The results have been presented in national and international meetings:

13th European Ecological Federation Conference, Italy, 2015
25th Congresso Nazionale di Entomologia. Italy, 2016
6th International Barcode of Life Conference. Canada 2015
Future 4 Butterflies in Europe. Netherlands 2016

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The progress beyond the state of the art and the impact of the project can be recognized by results contained in the four published papers.

In the first study distributions of COI sequences, allozymes, and wing and genitalic shape were compared for three highly related taxa, for which the specific status was not clear. All studied markers showed a strong spatial structure, and the COI haplotypes revealed a complete mutual exclusion over the region. This datum and the concordance of COI with morphology confirmed the specific status of these taxa. Nevertheless, allozymes revealed a strong incongruence compared to DNA and morphology, thus implying the existence of different evolutionary forces in shaping different markers.

In the second study genetic, chemical, cytogenetic, morphological, ecological and microbiological data have been integrated to study a group of cryptic species of the genus Spialia. It has been found that in some Iberian population of Spialia sertorius, some larvae feed on Rosa instead of Sanguisorba. These larvae belong to a different COI lineage, the adults show different chemical signatures and are affected by Wolbachia. Accordingly, a new species, Spialia rosae, sympatric and synmorphic with S. sertorius has been described as a case of ecological speciation. The evolutionary history of other species of the genus has been also clarified.

In the third paper the entire butterfly faunas of all the circum-Sicilian islands were analyzed for COI and the determinants of their alpha and beta diversity assessed. Insular communities were determined by a combination of contemporary and historical factors (current isolation and Pleistocene connections). Species can be divided in two groups with different properties: widespread taxa had high dispersal capacity, a nested pattern of occurrence, and low genetic structure; rare species showed by low dispersal, high turnover and differentiated populations. On each island a different set of species had a high contribution to the local diversity, thus implying the need of local assessments of conservation measures.

In the fourth paper the variation across island groups and taxa of the parameters of the species-area relationship (SAR) has been studied. SAR parameters have been estimated for various taxonomic groups: land snails, isopods, centipedes, tenebrionids and reptiles and it has been possible to verify that different taxa have different parameters within the same island group possibly due to their dispersal ability and ecological characteristics, and that the same taxon has different parameters in different island groups due to contemporary and historical factors.

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