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Picture of the Day

Laying down evolutionary roots

Thanks to fanatical collectors, there is a treasure trove of scientific information stored in the form of millions of butterfly specimens, offering insights into community ecology, how species originate and evolve, climate change and interactions between plants and insects. But a comprehensive map of how butterflies are related to each other has been lacking -- until now. In a recent study, lepidopterists led an effort to produce a bigger, better butterfly evolutionary tree with a 35-fold increase in genetic data and 3 times as many taxa -- classification units of organisms -- as previous studies. They then calibrated the tree based on the fossil record, assigning dates to certain developmental milestones. The new evolutionary tree could provide a much-needed backbone for a revised classification of butterflies.

Visit Website | Image credit: Espeland et al.