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The role of endosymbionts in the diversification of Brazilian Atlantic Forest butterflies


The Brazilian Atlantic Forest (AF) is a biodiversity hotspot, due to its high biodiversity and high rate of habitat degradation. Genomic data can be used to understand how AF species respond to environmental challenges. In addition, genomic data can be useful for conservation policies. Most of the butterflies of the genus Actinote are endemic to AF, and classical molecular markers, such as the mitochondrial gene COI, fail to delimit some species complexes. The intracellular bacteria Wolbachia may be an agent promoting speciation or even reducing mitochondrial genetic diversity in insect species. This research project aims to investigate the role of Wolbachia endosymbiont in the diversification process of Actinote butterflies at both phylogenetic and population levels. This study proposes to advance the understanding of the role of endosymbiosis in the diversification and maintenance of the Atlantic Forest's biodiversity. Three modules with different evolutionary perspectives are proposed to complete this objective. 1) Using phylogenomics methods (high-throughput DNA sequencing) to infer a phylogenetic hypothesis for the genus Actinote to reveal which evolutionary processes are interfering with the diversification of Actinote and try to answer why their phenotypic variation is not detected in mitochondrial genes. 2) Detect and identify which Wolbachia lineages infect Actinote species. To evaluate the effects of endosymbiosis and its transmission in Actinote, a phylogenetic hypothesis will be inferred based on the Wolbachia genomic data and rearing experiments of infected Actinote immatures. 3) Whole-genome resequencing will be done to obtain extensive population genomic data of three endemic AF species of the genus Actinote. I will investigate the prevalence and whether there is a genetic variation of Wolbachia lineages between different host populations. (AU)

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