Neotropical butterflies

The Neotropics is a biogeographic region that broadly comprises the entire Latin America. Because of its geography consisting of lowlands (e.g. the Amazonia or the Gran Chaco), mountains (e.g. the Andes, the tepuies or the southeastern Brazil highlands) and archipelagos (e.g. the Galápagos Islands), as well as its mostly tropical location, the region includes several climate types and ecoregions.

Its geological history, especially during the Neogene and the Quaternary (the last 20 million years ago), had a remarkable impact on the evolution of neotropical species. Events such as the major uplift of the Andes, the closure of the Isthmus of Panamá, the very dynamic lacustrine-fluvial system (e.g. the 1-million-km2 paleo-lake Pebas or the establishment of the Amazon river), and the Pleistocene Ice Ages, altered the composition and distribution of organisms.

Just in the Neotropics there exists more than 7700 species of butterflies (about 40% of the world butterfly diversity), and estimates of total number of species in the region vary between 8400 and 8700. Yet, the taxonomy, systematics and evolutionary history of several butterfly groups are poorly understood.

Our projects for the Neotropical realm include:

  • The clarification of the systematics of Euptychia boulleti. Freitas et al. (2012) showed that it belongs to a species group whose phylogenetic position within Satyrini is not yet completely resolved.
  • Elucidation of the evolutionary history of the “Taygetis clade”. The major uplift of the Andes apparently favored the diversification of the group, as well as possible host plant shifts and dispersal from southeastern Brazil towards the Andes may have been important in butterfly biogeography (Matos-Maraví et al., 2013).
  • Systematics of the butterfly tribe Haeterini (Satyrinae). Many of these charismatic insects have transparent wings as well as bright-colored patches on the wings surface. The phylogenetic relationships within the group are not completely clear, and we attempt to provide some insights using molecular information. (In preparation).


  • Matos-Maraví, P. 2016: Investigating the timing of origin and evolutionary processes shaping regional species diversity: Insights from simulated data and Neotropical butterfly diversification rates. Evolution, 70(7): 1638-1650. doi:10.1111/evo.12960
  • Matos-Maraví, P. F., Peña, C., Willmott, K. R., Freitas, A. V. L., Wahlberg, N. 2013: Systematics and evolutionary history of butteflies in the “Taygetis clade” (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae: Euptychiina): towards a better understanding of Neotropical biogeography. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66(1): 54-68. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.09.005
  • Freitas, A. V. L., Wahlberg, N., Matos-Maraví, P. F., Marín, M. A. & Mielke, O. H. H. 2012: Euptychia boulleti (Le Cerf) n. comb. (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae), a rare and endangered butterfly from southeastern Brazil. Neotropical Entomology 41(6): 461-467. doi:10.1007/s13744-012-0073-5


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