Out-of-Africa again: a phylogenetic hypothesis of the genus Charaxes (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) based on five gene regions.Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2009 Nov; 53(2):463-78.MP
Despite the long popularity of Charaxes among collectors and researchers, their evolutionary history is largely unknown. The current and accepted species groupings and relationships within the genus are based exclusively on adult morphology and life histories. Here, we examine the monophyly and evolutionary affinities of the species-groups within the genus Charaxes and explore how they relate to members of their closest genera (Euxanthe, Polyura and Palla) using 4167bp of sequence data from five (1 mitochondrial and 4 nuclear) gene regions. Within the proposed phylogenetic framework, we estimate ages of divergence within the genus and also reconstruct their historical biogeography. We included representatives of all known species-groups in Africa and Asia, all known species of Euxanthe and Palla and two exemplar species of Polyura. We found the genus Charaxes to be a paraphyletic group with regard to the genera Polyura and Euxanthe, contrary to the earlier assumption of monophyly. We found that 13 out of 16 morphologically defined species-groups with more than one species were strongly supported monophyletic clades. Charaxes nichetes is the sister group to all the other Charaxes. Polyura grouped with the Zoolina and Pleione species-groups as a well-supported clade, and Euxanthe grouped with the Lycurgus species-group. Our results indicated that the common ancestor of Charaxes diverged from the common ancestor of Palla in the mid Eocene (45 million years ago) in (Central) Africa and began diversifying to its extant members 15 million years later. Most of the major diversifications within the genus occurred between the late Oligocene and Miocene when the global climates were putatively undergoing drastic fluctuations. A considerable number of extant species diverged from sister species during the Pliocene. A dispersal-vicariance analysis suggests that many dispersal rather than vicariance events resulted in the distribution of the extant species. The genus Polyura and the Indo-Australian Charaxes are most likely the results of three independent colonizations of Asia by African Charaxes in the Miocene. We synonymize the genera Polyura (syn. nov.) and Euxanthe (syn. nov.) with Charaxes, with the currently circumscribed Charaxes subdivided into five subgenera to reflect its phylogeny.