Research labs

Butterfly Diversity & Evolution lab

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 tiny butterflies colonise the New World and what route did they follow? How did parasitism evolve from a friendly association between species? Is a given population of a new species worth protecting? Can a butterfly cross the Sahara desert? These are a few examples of the questions addressed by the Butterfly Diversity & Evolution lab.

Principal investigator: Roger Vila

Members of the lab: Gerard Talavera, Postdoctoral Researcher; Vlad Dincă, Postdoctoral Researcher; Sämi Schär, Postdoctoral Researcher; Markus Franzén, Postdoctoral Researcher; Joan Carles Hinojosa, Master Student; Aurélien Gaunet, Master Student, and Cecília Corbella, Laboratory Technician

Oral presentations and talks given: 17

Main publications and other research activities:

Koubínová, D., Dincă, V., Dapporto, L., Vodă, R., Suchan, T., Vila, R.* & Alvarez, N.* (2017) Genomics of extreme ecological specialists: multiple convergent evolution but no genetic divergence between ecotypes of Maculinea alcon butterflies. Scientific Reports 7: 13752; doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-12938-8. (*Joint supervisors).

Talla, V., Alexander Suh, A., Kalsoom, F., Dincă V., Vila, R., Friberg., M., Wiklund., C & Backström, N. (2017) Rapid increase in genome size as a consequence of transposable element hyperactivity in wood-white (Leptidea) butterflies. Genome Biology and Evolution 9: 2491-2505.

Dapporto, L.*, Cini A.*, Menchetti M.*, Vodă, R.*, Bonelli, S., Casacci, L.P., Dincă, V., Scalercio, S., Hinojosa, J.C., Biermann, H., Forbicioni, L., Mazzantini, U., Venturi, L., Zanichelli, F., Balletto, E., Shreeve, T.G., Dennis, R.L.H. & Vila, R.  (2017) Rise and fall of island butterfly diversity. Understanding genetic differentiation and extinction in a highly diverse archipelago. Diversity and Distributions 23: 1169-1181; doi: 10.1111/ddi.12610 (*Co-first authors).

Pitteloud, C., Arrigo, N., Suchan, T., Mastretta-Yanes, A., Vila, R., Dincă, V., Hernández-Roldán, J., Brockmann, E., Chittaro, Y., Kleckova, I., Fumagalli, L., Buerki, S., Pellissier, L. & Alvarez, N. (2017) Climatic niche evolution is faster in sympatric than allopatric lineages of the butterfly genus Pyrgus. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 284: 20170208.

Schär, S.*, Vila, R.*, Petrović, A., Tomanović, Ž., Pierce, N.E. & Nash, D.R. (2017) Molecular substitution rate increases with latitude in butterflies: Evidence for a trans-glacial latitudinal layering of populations? Ecography 40: 930-935; doi: 10.1111/ecog.02487 (*Co-first authors).

Habel, J.C., Vila, R., Vodă, R., Husemann, M., Schmitt, T. & Dapporto, L. (2017) Differentiation in the marbled white butterfly species complex driven by multiple evolutionary forces. Journal of Biogeography 44: 433-445; doi: 10.1111/jbi.12868

Talavera, G. & Vila, R. (2017) Discovery of mass migration and breeding of the painted lady butterfly Vanessa cardui in the Sub-Sahara: the Europe-Africa migration revisited. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society; doi:10.1111/bij.12873

Main outreach activities:

Production of the video Vanessa’s Odyssey, Tribute to the butterfly Vanessa cardui and her incredible journey

Contribution to the exhibition Top Ciència at the Cosmocaixa.

Contribution to the TVprogram ¡Qué animal! of RTVE.

Contribution to the article «No la llames mariposa», Quo magazine.

Contribution to the feature «En un mundo sin insectos», in La Vanguardia.

Activity at the public primary school Can Manent in Cardedeu: «Guia de camp dels invertebrats de Can Manent»

Funding (active projects in 2017 only):

Name of the project Speciation genomics in non-model organisms: exploring the diversification continuum in European butterflies (RADMAR)
Principal investigator Roger Vila
Funding institution Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (AEI/FEDER, UE)


Name of the project ButterflyNet—an integrative framework for comparative biology
Principal investigator David J. Lohman
Funding institution GoLife Program. National Science Foundation (USA)


Name of the project MIGRATION— The most cosmopolitan animal migration: phylogeography and population genomics of the butterfly Vanessa cardui
Principal investigator Scientist in Charge/Coordinator: Roger Vila. Research Fellow: Gerard Talavera
Funding institution EU (Marie Curie Actions)


Name of the project EUGENMAP— Genetic map of European butterflies: Continental-scale cryptic species assessment and comparisons to North America and Australia
Principal investigator Scientist in Charge/Coordinator: Roger Vila. Research Fellow: Vlad Dincă
Funding institution EU (Marie Curie Actions)

More information:
Butterfly Diversity and Evolution lab’s website

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