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Keywords:

  • Aristolochia;
  • character optimization;
  • chemical similarity;
  • geographical range;
  • molecular phylogeny;
  • pattern approach

Molecular phylogenetic analyses were conducted to determine relationships and to investigate character evolution for the Troidini/Aristolochia interaction, in an attempt to answer the following questions: (1) what is the present pattern of use of Aristolochia by these butterflies; (2) is the pattern we see today related to the phylogeny of plants or to their chemical composition; (3) can the geographical distribution of Aristolochia explain the host plant use observed today; and (4) how did the interaction between Troidini and Aristolochia evolve? Analyses of character optimization suggest that the current pattern of host plant use of these butterflies does not seem to be constrained by the phylogeny of their food plants, neither by the secondary chemicals in these plants nor by their geographical similarity. The current host plant use in these butterflies seems to be simply opportunistic, with species with a wider geographical range using more species of host plants than those with a more restricted distribution. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 90, 247–261.