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Studies of altitudinal and latitudinal gradients have identified links between the evolution of insect flight morphology, landscape structure and microclimate. Although lowland tropical rainforests offer steeper shifts in conditions between the canopy and the understorey, this vertical gradient has received far less attention. Butterflies, because of their great phenotypic plasticity, are excellent models to study selection pressures that mould flight morphology. We examined data collected over 5 years on 64 Nymphalidae butterflies in the Ecuadorian Chocó rainforest. We used phylogenetic methods to control for similarity resulting from common ancestry, and explore the relationships between species stratification and flight morphology. We hypothesized that species should show morphological adaptations related to differing micro-environments, associated with canopy and understorey. We found that butterfly species living in each stratum presented significantly different allometric slopes. Furthermore, a preference for the canopy was significantly associated with low wing area to thoracic volume ratios and high wing aspect ratios, but not with the relative distance to the wing centroid, consistent with extended use of fast flapping flight for canopy butterflies and slow gliding for the understorey. Our results suggest that microclimate differences in vertical gradients are a key factor in generating morphological diversity in flying insects.
Idioma originalEspañol (Ecuador)
PublicaciónProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
EstadoPublicada - 21 oct. 2020
Publicado de forma externa

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