The phylogenetic status of the well-known Asian butterflies often known as Agehana (a species group, often treated as a genus or a subgenus, within Papilio sensu lato) has long remained unresolved. Only two species are included, and one of them especially, Papilio maraho, is not only rare but near-threatened, being monophagous on its vulnerable hostplant, Sassafras randaiense (Lauraceae). Although the natural history and population conservation of "Agehana" has received much attention, the biogeographic origin of this group still remains enigmatic. To clarify these two questions, a total of 86 species representatives within Papilionidae were sampled, and four genes (concatenated length 3842 bp) were used to reconstruct their phylogenetic relationships and historical scenarios. Surprisingly, "Agehana" fell within the American Papilio subgenus Pterourus and not as previously suggested, phylogenetically close to the Asian Papilio subgenus Chilasa. We therefore formally synonymize Agehana with Pterourus. Dating and biogeographic analysis allow us to infer an intercontinental dispersal of an American ancestor of Asian Pterourus in the early Miocene, which was coincident with historical paleo-land bridge connections, resulting in the present "East Asia-America" disjunction distribution. We emphasize that species exchange between East Asia and America seems to be a quite frequent occurrence in butterflies during the Oligocene to Miocene climatic optima.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)