Research lines

This lab studies butterfly diversity patterns in time and space, as well as their evolutionary causes. Its end goal is to answer longstanding questions regarding the limits between species, chromosomal evolution and the link between phylogeography and ecology. When did a group of butterflies colonise the New World and what route did they follow? How did parasitism evolve from a friendly association between species? Are there species that we cannot visually distinguish? Can a butterfly cross the Sahara desert? These are a few examples of the questions addressed by the Butterfly Diversity & Evolution lab.

Lab website: Butterfly Diversity & Evolution Lab

Principal Investigator

Roger Vila Ujaldón

Vila Ujaldón, Roger
CSIC Tenured Scientist
Butterfly Diversity and Evolution Lab

Current members

Valéria Carvalho Marques

Carvalho Marques, Valéria
Predoctoral Researcher
Butterfly diversity and evolution

Cecilia Corbella Felip

Corbella Felip, Cecilia
Laboratory Technician
Butterfly Diversity & Evolution Lab

Mattia Menchetti

Menchetti , Mattia
Predoctoral Researcher-INPhINIT " La Caixa "
Butterfly Diversity and Evolution

Enrico Schifani

Schifani , Enrico
Visiting Predoctoral Researcher
Butterfly Diversity and Evolution Lab

Loukia Spilani

Spilani , Loukia
Predoctoral Researcher
Butterfly diversity and evolution

Ongoing projects


Vila R, Lohse K, Hayward A, Laetsch DR, Wright C. 2023. The genome sequence of the Chalkhill Blue, Lysandra coridon (Poda, 1761). Wellcome Open Research, 8(May):162. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.19253.1

Talavera G, García-Berro A, Talla VNK, Ng'iru I, Bahleman F, Kébé K, Nzala KM, Plasencia D, Marafi MAJ, Kassie A, Goudégnon EOA, Kiki M, Benyamini D, Reich MS, López-Mañas R, Benetello F, Collins SC, Bataille CP, Pierce NE, Martins DJ, Suchan T, Menchetti M, Vila R. 2023. The Afrotropical breeding grounds of the Palearctic-African migratory painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(16):2017. DOI:10.1073/pnas.2218280120

Schifani E, Alicata A, Borowiec L, García F, Gentile V, Gómez K, Nalini E, Rigato F, Schär S, Scupola A, Vila R, Menchetti M. 2023. Unrecognized for centuries: distribution and sexual caste descriptions of the West European Aphaenogaster species of the subterranea group (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). ZooKeys, 1153:141-156. DOI:10.3897/zookeys.1153.98297

Menchetti M, Schifani E, Alicata A, Vila R. 2023. Quantitative morphology and mtDNA reveal that Lasius maltaeus is not endemic to the Maltese Islands (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 95:129-142. DOI:10.3897/jhr.95.96365

Mackintosh A, Vila R, Laetsch DR, Hayward A, Martin SH, Lohse K. 2023. Chromosome Fissions and Fusions Act as Barriers to Gene Flow between Brenthis Fritillary Butterflies. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 40(3). DOI:10.1093/molbev/msad043

Höök L, Näsvall K, Vila R, Wiklund C, Backström N. 2023. High-density linkage maps and chromosome level genome assemblies unveil direction and frequency of extensive structural rearrangements in wood white butterflies (Leptidea spp.). Chromosome Research, 31(1):2. DOI:10.1007/s10577-023-09713-z.

Hinojosa JC, Montiel-Pantoja C, Sanjurjo-Franch M, Martínez-Pérez I, Lee KM, Mutanen M, Vila R. 2023. Diversification linked to larval host plant in the butterfly Eumedonia eumedon. Molecular Ecology, 32(1):182-197. DOI:10.1111/mec.16728

García-Berro A, Talla V, Vila R, Wai HK, Shipilina D, Chan KG, Pierce NE, Backström N, Talavera G. 2023. Migratory behaviour is positively associated with genetic diversity in butterflies. Molecular Ecology, 32(3):560-574. DOI:10.1111/mec.16770

Espeland M, Chazot N, Condamine FL, Lemmon AR, Lemmon EM, Pringle E, Heath A, Collins S, Tiren W, Mutiso M, Lees DC, Fisher S, Murphy R, Woodhall S, Tropek R, Ahlborn SS, Cockburn K, Dobson J, Bouyer T, Kaliszewska ZA, Baker CCM, Talavera G, Vila R, Gardiner AJ, Williams M, Martins DJ, Sáfián S, Edge DA, Pierce NE. 2023. Rapid radiation of ant parasitic butterflies during the Miocene aridification of Africa. Ecology and Evolution, 13(5):1-15. DOI:10.1002/ece3.10046

Vila R, Lohse K, Hayward A, Laetsch DR, Wahlberg N. 2022. The genome sequence of the white admiral, Limenitis camilla (Linnaeus, 1764). Wellcome Open Research, 7:301. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.18594.1

Vila R, Lohse K, Hayward A, Laetsch D. 2022. The genome sequence of the marbled white butterfly, Melanargia galathea (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 7:123. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.17807.1

Talavera G, Lukhtanov V, Pierce NE, Vila R. 2022. DNA barcodes combined with multi-locus data of representative taxa can generate reliable higher-level phylogenies. Systematic Biology, 71(2):382-395. DOI:10.1093/sysbio/syab038

Sistri G, Menchetti M, Santini L, Pasquali L, Sapienti S, Cini A, Platania L, Balletto E, Barbero F, Bonelli S, Casacci LP, Dincă V, Vila R, Mantoni C, Fattorini S, Dapporto L. 2022. The isolated Erebia pandrose Apennine population is genetically unique and endangered by climate change. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 15(1):136-148. DOI:10.1111/icad.12538

Schär S, Talavera G, Rana JD, Espadaler X, Cover SP, Shattuck SO, Vila R. 2022. Integrative taxonomy reveals cryptic diversity in North American Lasius ants, and an overlooked introduced species. Scientific Reports, 12(1):5970. DOI:10.1038/s41598-022-10047-9

Polic D, Yıldırım Y, Lee KM, Franzén M, Mutanen M, Vila R, Forsman A. 2022. Linking large‐scale genetic structure of three Argynnini butterfly species to geography and environment. Molecular Ecology, 31(16):4381-4401. DOI:10.1111/mec.16594

Menchetti M, Schifani E, Gentile V, Vila R. 2022. The worrying arrival of the invasive Asian needle ant Brachyponera chinensis in Europe (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa, 5115(1):146-150. DOI:10.11646/zootaxa.5115.1.10

Mackintosh A, Laetsch DR, Baril T, Foster R, Dincă V, Vila R, Hayward A, Lohse K. 2022. The genome sequence of the lesser marbled fritillary, Brenthis ino , and evidence for a segregating neo-Z chromosome. G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics, 12(6):1-43. DOI:10.1093/g3journal/jkac069

López-Mañas R, Pascual-Díaz JP, García-Berro A, Bahleman F, Reich MS, Pokorny L, Bataille CP, Vila R, Domingo-Marimon C, Talavera G. 2022. Erratic spatiotemporal vegetation growth anomalies drive population outbreaks in a trans-Saharan insect migrant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(19):3-5. DOI:10.1073/pnas.2121249119

Lohse K, Hayward A, Laetsch DR, Wahlberg N. 2022. The genome sequence of the high brown fritillary, Fabriciana adippe (Dennis & Schiffermüller, 1775). Wellcome Open Research, 7:298. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.18569.1

Lohse K, Hayward A, Vila R, Howe C. 2022. The genome sequence of the Adonis blue, Lysandra bellargus (Rottemburg, 1775). Wellcome Open Research, 7:255. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.18330.1

Lohse K, Hayward A, Laetsch DR, Vila R, Yumnam T. 2022. The genome sequence of the common yellow swallowtail, Papilio machaon (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 7:261. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.18119.1

Lohse K, Hayward A, Laetsch DR, Vila R, Lucek K. 2022. The genome sequence of the Arran brown, Erebia ligea (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 7:259. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.18115.1

Hinojosa JC, Dapporto L, Pitteloud C, Koubínová D, Hernández-Roldán J, Vicente JC, Alvarez N, Vila R. 2022. Hybridization fuelled diversification in Spialia butterflies. Molecular Ecology, 31(10):2951-2967.  DOI:10.1111/mec.16426

Hayward A, Vila R, Lohse K, Laetsch D. 2022. The genome sequence of the grizzled skipper, Pyrgus malvae (Linnaeus, 1758). Wellcome Open Research, 7(May):114. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.17806.1

Tahami MS, Dincă V, Lee KM, Vila R, Joshi M, Heikkilä M, Dapporto L, Schmid S, Huemer P, Mutanen M. 2021. Genomics Reveal Admixture and Unexpected Patterns of Diversity in a Parapatric Pair of Butterflies. Genes, 12(12):2009. DOI:10.3390/genes12122009

Näsvall K, Wiklund C, Mrazek V, Künstner A, Talla V, Busch H, Vila R, Backström N. 2021. Host plant diet affects growth and induces altered gene expression and microbiome composition in the wood white (Lepidia sinapis) butterfly. Molecular Ecology, 30(2):499-516. DOI:10.1111/mec.15745

Menchetti M, Talavera G, Cini A, Salvati V, Dincă V, Platania L, Bonelli S, Balletto E, Vila R, Dapporto L. 2021. Two ways to be endemic. Alps and Apennines are different functional refugia during climatic cycles. Molecular Ecology, 30(5):1297-1310. DOI: 10.1111/mec.15795. 

Hinojosa JC, Dapporto L, Brockmann E, Dinca V, Tikhonov V, Grishin N, Lukhtanov VA, Vila R. 2021. Overlooked cryptic diversity in muschampia (lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) adds two species to the european butterfly fauna. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 193(3):847-859. DOI:10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa171

Hayward A, Vila R, Laetsch DR, Lohse K, Baril T. 2021. The genome sequence of the heath fritillary, Melitaea athalia (Rottemburg, 1775). Wellcome Open Research, 6:304. DOI:10.12688/wellcomeopenres.17280.1

Groza B, Vodă R, Székely L, Vila R, Dincă V. 2021. Genetics and extreme confinement of three overlooked butterfly species in Romania call for immediate conservation actionsJournal of Insect Conservation, 25(1):137–146. DOI: 10.1007/s10841-020-00281-9

Ebdon S, Laetsch DR, Dapporto L, Hayward A, Ritchie MG, Dincă V, Vila R, Lohse K. 2021. The Pleistocene species pump past its prime: evidence from European butterfly sister species. Molecular Ecology, 30(14):3575-3589. DOI: 10.1111/mec.15981

Dincă V, Dapporto L, Somervuo P, Vodă R, Cuvelier S, Gascoigne-Pees M, Huemer P, Mutanen M, Hebert PDN, Vila R. 2021. High resolution DNA barcode library for European butterflies reveals continental patterns of mitochondrial genetic diversity. Communications Biology, 4(1). DOI: 10.1038/s42003-021-01834-7. 

Chazot N, Condamine FL, Dudas G, Peña C, Kodandaramaiah U, Matos-Maraví P, Aduse-Poku K, Elias M, Warren AD, Lohman DJ, Penz CM, DeVries P, Fric ZF, Nylin S, Müller C, Kawahara AY, Silva-Brandão KL, Lamas G, Kleckova I, Zubek A, Ortiz-Acevedo E, Vila R, Vane-Wright RI, Mullen SP, Jiggins CD, Wheat CW, Freitas AVL, Wahlberg N. 2021. Conserved ancestral tropical niche but different continental histories explain the latitudinal diversity gradient in brush-footed butterflies. Nature Communications, 12(1):5717. DOI:10.1038/s41467-021-25906-8

Platania L, Vodă R, Dincă V, Talavera G, Vila R, Dapporto L. 2020. Integrative analyses on Western Palearctic Lasiommata reveal a mosaic of nascent butterfly species. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 58(4):809-822. DOI:10.1111/jzs.12356

Yoshido A, Šíchová J, Pospíšilová K, Nguyen P, Voleníková A, Šafář J, Provazník J, Vila R, Marec F. 2020. Evolution of multiple sex-chromosomes associated with dynamic genome reshuffling in Leptidea wood-white butterflies. Heredity, 125(3):138-154. DOI:10.1038/s41437-020-0325-9

Scalercio S, Cini A, Menchetti M, Vodă R, Bonelli S, Bordoni A, Casacci LP, Dincă V, Balletto E, Vila R, Dapporto L. 2020. How long is 3 km for a butterfly? Ecological constraints and functional traits explain high mitochondrial genetic diversity between Sicily and the Italian Peninsula. Journal of Animal Ecology, 89(9):2013-2026. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13196

Schär S, Menchetti M, Schifani E, Hinojosa JC, Platania L, Dapporto L, Vila R. 2020. Integrative biodiversity inventory of ants from a Sicilian archipelago reveals high diversity on young volcanic islands (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Organisms Diversity & Evolution, 20(3):405-416. DOI:10.1007/s13127-020-00442-3

Platania L, Menchetti M, Dinca V, Corbella C, Kay-Lavelle I, Vila R, Wiemers M, Schweiger O, Dapporto L. 2020. Assigning occurrence data to cryptic taxa improves climatic niche assessments: Biodecrypt, a new tool tested on European butterflies. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 29(10):1852-1865. DOI:10.1111/geb.13154 

Lukhtanov VA, Dincă V, Friberg M, Vila R, Wiklund C. 2020. Incomplete Sterility of Chromosomal Hybrids: Implications for Karyotype Evolution and Homoploid Hybrid Speciation. Frontiers in Genetics, 11: 583827. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2020.583827

Kaminski LA, Volkmann L, Callaghan CJ, DeVries PJ, Vila R. 2020. The first known riodinid ‘cuckoo’ butterfly reveals deep-time convergence and parallelism in ant social parasites. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 1-20. DOI:10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa150

Hinojosa JC, Koubínová D, Dincă V, Hernández‐Roldán J, Munguira ML, García‐Barros E, Vila M, Alvarez N, Mutanen M, Vila R. 2020. Rapid colour shift by reproductive character displacement in Cupido butterflies. Molecular Ecology, 29(24):4942–4955. DOI: 10.1111/mec.15682.

Toussaint EFA, Dias FMS, Mielke OHH, Casagrande MM, Sañudo-Restrepo CP, Lam A, Morinière J, Balke M, Vila R. 2019. Flight over the Proto-Caribbean seaway: Phylogeny and macroevolution of Neotropical Anaeini leafwing butterflies. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 137: 86-103. DOI:10.1016/j.ympev.2019.04.020

Toussaint EFA, Vila R, Yago M, Chiba H, Warren AD, Aduse-Poku K, Storer C, Dexter KM, Maruyama K, Lohman DJ, Kawahara, AY. 2019. Out of the Orient: Post-Tethyan transoceanic and trans-Arabian routes fostered the spread of Baorini skippers in the Afrotropics. Systematic Entomology, 44(4):926-938. DOI:10.1111/syen.12365

Talla V.; Johansson A.;Dincă V.;Vila R.; Friberg M.; Wiklund C.; Backström N. 2019. Lack of gene flow: Narrow and dispersed differentiation islands in a triplet of Leptidea butterfly speciesMolecular Ecology. doi: DOI: 10.1111/mec.15188

Talla V, Johansson A, Dincă V, Vila R, Friberg M, Wiklund C, Backström N. 2019. Lack of gene flow: Narrow and dispersed differentiation islands in a triplet of Leptidea butterfly species. Molecular Ecology, 28(16):3756-3770. DOI:10.1111/mec.15188

Szenteczki MA, Pitteloud C, Casacci LP, Kešnerová L, Whitaker MRL, Engel P, Vila R, Alvarez N. 2019. Bacterial communities within Phengaris (Maculinea) alcon caterpillars are shifted following transition from solitary living to social parasitism of Myrmica ant colonies. Ecology and Evolution, 9(8):4452-4464. DOI:10.1002/ece3.5010

Suchan T, Talavera G, Sáez L, Ronikier M, Vila R. 2019. Pollen metabarcoding as a tool for tracking long-distance insect migrations. Molecular Ecology Resources,19(1):149-162. DOI:10.1111/1755-0998.12948


Ryan SF, Lombaert E, Espeset A, Vila R, Talavera G, Dincă V, Doellman MM, Renshaw MA, Eng MW, Hornett EA, Li Y, Pfrender ME, Shoemaker D. 2019. Global invasion history of the agricultural pest butterfly Pieris rapae revealed with genomics and citizen science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(40):20015-20024. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1907492116

Postigo JL, Strubbe D, Mori E, Ancillotto L, Carneiro I, Latsoudis P, Menchetti M, Pârâu LG, Parrott D, Reino L, Weiserbs A, Senar JC. 2019. Mediterranean versus Atlantic monk parakeets Myiopsitta monachus: towards differentiated management at the European scale. Pest Management Science, 75(4):915-922. doi:10.1002/ps.5320

Mori E, Sala JP, Fattorini N, Menchetti M, Montalvo T, Senar JC. 2019. Ectoparasite sharing among native and invasive birds in a metropolitan area. Parasitology Research, 118(2):399-409. DOI:10.1007/s00436-018-6174-2

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