Seminar: “Evolution and Diversification of Butterflies and Moths: Anti-Bat Ultrasound Jamming, Acoustic Deflection, and Visual Lures” by Prof. Akito Kawahara
Prof. Akito Kawahara, Florida Museum of Natural History, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, University of Florida
Evolution and Diversification of Butterflies and Moths: Anti-Bat Ultrasound Jamming, Acoustic Deflection, and Visual Lures
Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) are a mega-diverse order of insects with nearly 160,000 described species. They are ecologically important as pollinators, are often pests to agriculture, serve as models for many different scientific disciplines, and are key indicators of environmental change, yet a robust evolutionary framework for the order is lacking. I will present the first comprehensive, dated evolutionary tree of butterflies and moths using transcriptomics and target capture from museum specimens, and also discuss ecological mechanisms and traits that may have led to the diversification of these insects on islands and continents. In particular, I will touch on some of our interdisciplinary work: utilization of plants and pollination by moths and butterflies, sonar jamming by hawkmoths, acoustic deflection by luna moth tails, and color vision. I will demonstrate how CT-Scanning is useful in understanding key morphological innovations such as moth eyes and discuss how moth wing shape and flight mechanics may be influencing the evolution of these insects.