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A Mosaic of Chemical Coevolution in a Large Blue Butterfly
David R. Nash,1*
Thomas D. Als,2
Graeme R. Jones,3
Jacobus J. Boomsma1
Mechanisms of recognition are essential to the evolution ofmutualistic and parasitic interactions between species. Onesuch example is the larval mimicry that Maculinea butterflycaterpillars use to parasitize Myrmica ant colonies. We foundthat the greater the match between the surface chemistry ofMaculinea alcon and two of its host Myrmica species, the moreeasily ant colonies were exploited. The geographic patternsof surface chemistry indicate an ongoing coevolutionary armsrace between the butterflies and Myrmica rubra, which has significantgenetic differentiation between populations, but not betweenthe butterflies and a second, sympatric host, Myrmica ruginodis,which has panmictic populations. Alternative hosts may thereforeprovide an evolutionary refuge for a parasite during periodsof counteradaptation by their preferred hosts.
1 Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. 2 Department of Genetics and Ecology, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Århus C, Denmark. 3 School of Chemistry, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK.