Researchers have found that the deserts of Mexico and the American Southwest are home to an array of evolutionarily distinct butterfly groups.
The research paper was published earlier on Tuesday on the journal iScience. In the paper, the researchers highlight the importance of an ecosystem that was previously thought of as mostly inhospitable.
In a press release, Chandra Earl said, “When you think of desert, you don’t automatically jump to butterflies, but our results showed that this area is actually a really important hotspot for butterflies, even if it isn’t for plants.”
Earlier continued, “Just because butterflies are closely tied to their host plants doesn’t mean their diversity outcomes have to be similar.”
During the course of the research, the scientists collected records from a variety of biodiversity databased. Instead of focusing on the number of butterfly and plant species in a given location, the researchers looked for the habitats with the highest concentration of phylodiversity. The researchers found that the places with greater phylodiversity host a wider array of different species.
Earl said, “We wouldn’t have found the same result if we’d just counted the species like most biodiversity studies. But we really wanted to step away from that, so we didn’t lose the importance of evolutionary history.”